• Rikki Lambert

Workers, welfare recipients, businesses receive government handouts

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announces the handouts

The Morrison federal government and state governments in New South Wales and Victoria have announced financial support measures for workers, welfare recipients and businesses adversely affected by pandemic restrictions. Disrupted workers will now, effectively, receive the financial equivalent of Jobkeeper.

The Morrison government has previously baulked at Opposition calls to reinstate Jobkeeper. While the increase in the weekly payment for affected workers from $600 to $750 per week takes the emergency disaster payments close to pandemic levels, they are not branded as 'JobKeeper'.

People on Centrelink payments will be eligible for $200 a week if they lose more than eight hours of work.

The higher rate of coronavirus disaster payments is in line with the original rate of JobKeeper wage subsidies which were set at $1500 a fortnight.

Mr Morrison told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that the disaster payments method was better targeted than Jobkeeper:

"We are not dealing with a pandemic outbreak across the whole country.
"JobKeeper was a great scheme but you don't play last year's grand final this year."

Victorian businesses hit hard by repeated coronavirus lockdowns will also be able to apply for new relief grants.

The state and federal government on Wednesday announced a joint $400 million package including a $156 million business continuity fund. The fund grants $5000 grants to approximately 30,000 businesses hit by capacity limits under public health restrictions. Gyms, cafes, restaurants, catering services and hairdressers are among the twenty-four eligible sectors.

A further $70 million will be added to the licensed hospitality venue fund 2021 and $9.8 million more will be provided in alpine business support.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in a statement:

"Having battled five lockdowns Victorian businesses have been amongst the hardest hit in the nation.
"No amount of support can make up for what business owners have experienced over the last year and half, but this latest package will support them as they reopen after this latest lockdown."

A further $85 million set aside to support small businesses with a payroll of $10 million and under that have not been eligible under existing business support funds.

If those businesses have experienced a 70 per cent or greater reduction in revenue they will be eligible for grants of up to $5000.

The Victorian government will also fully fund an $80 million commercial tenancies relief scheme so landlords can provide rent relief to their tenants.

Victorian Small Business Minister Jaala Pulford said in a statement:

"We're calling for good-faith negotiations between tenants and landlords, and the hardship fund will mean landlords who find reasonable common ground will be supported."

The Commonwealth has also partnered with New South Wales to support businesses affected by the current five-week Greater Sydney lockdown, which premier Gladys Berejiklian today announced will extend for a further four weeks:

NSW 'JobSaver' payments will now be available to businesses with an annual turnover of between $75,000 and $250 million, up from $50 million, which have experienced a revenue decline of 30 per cent or more.

The maximum weekly payment has also been increased, with businesses that maintain their employee headcount now able to receive between $1500 and $100,000 per week, up from $10,000.

Helen Waldron, NSW head of the nation's peak employer group, AiGroup, said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon:

“The month-long extension of the Sydney lockdown will deepen and broaden the financial and social impacts being felt by businesses, employees and the broader community including many outside of NSW.
“The measures allowing for the reopening of construction are logical and welcome given the industry’s COVID-safe record and high standards in dealing with the virus in the workplace."