COVID support package extended to businesses and regional NSW with a boost for employees

COVID support package extended to businesses and regional NSW with a boost for employees

The Commonwealth and New South Wales government have announced a new combined support package that will boost payments for businesses, employees and expand eligiblity to regional NSW.

From 18 July the COVID-19 Commonwealth Disaster Payment will be lifted to $600 if a person has lost 20 or more hours of work a week, and up to $375 if they have lost between eight and under 20 hours.

The two governments will also enter into a 50/50 cost sharing arrangement for a new business support payment, which will be implemented and administered by the state government.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says the businesses support payment will assist an estimated 500,000 entities employing more than three million people.

A new business support payment has been included for those who can demonstrate a 30 per cent decline in turnover. Entities that are eligible must have an annual turnover between $75,000 and $50 million.

Businesses must also maintain their full-time, part-time and long-term casual staffing levels as of 13 July 2021.

The support payment will see businesses that fit the criteria, including not-for-profits, receive payments of between $1,500 and $10,00 per week based on their level of payroll. The cash boost will be equivalent to 40 per cent of weekly payroll.

For non-employing businesses, such as sole traders, the payment will be set at $1,000 per week.

There will also be $1,500 fortnightly grants for micro businesses with turnover of between $30,000 and $75,000, where the business is the primary source of income and has demonstrated a 30 per cent reduction in turnover.

For businesses with payrolls of between $1.2 million and $10 million, a payroll tax deferral will be available with a waiver for this quarter once the 30 per cent turnover reduction is proven.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says that as the pandemic has evolved, so too have the responses from government.

"As the outbreak has worsened well beyond what we have recently seen in other states and territories, it is in the national interest to enable increased assistance, in partnership with the NSW Government, for workers, business and households, to ensure the lockdown can be maintained to arrest the latest outbreak," he says.

"This new support represents a new national approach and will apply to other states and territories in the event they face similar circumstances."

In addition $17.5 million has been pledged towards a mental health support package for NSW funding services such as Lifeline, Headspace and Kid's Helpline.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the support package will help businesses and families across NSW get through this difficult period.

"We are pleased to be able to increase our targeted support in conjunction with the Commonwealth and this assistance will ensure we get through the lockdown and come out stronger on the other side," she says.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet believes the package will help thousands of businesses across the state.

"This package will help families and businesses weather the current storm and ensure we can hit the ground running once this current outbreak is under control."

Business NSW chief executive Daniel Hunter says it is crucial for the support money to start flowing as quickly as possible.

"Business NSW has been working closely with both the State and Federal Governments over the past week on this package, particularly around what more could be done for business owners to retain their employees, and it's great to see this package rolled out that will support the doors staying open and staff keeping their jobs," Hunter says.

"The Government has assured business applications will open later this month with the money to be paid days after that.

"The impact the lockdown has had on the mental health of business owners has been heartbreaking to see, as many business owners have closed the doors, unlikely to ever reopen."

Hunter highlights the "immense" impact on regional NSW even though the lockdown has been for Greater Sydney, as they've missed out on the strong school holiday trade and also have a lack of forward bookings.

"This support will give business owners the opportunity to retain their staff and give them the best chance to rebound their operations when the lockdown finishes," Hunter says.

Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott describes the package as a critical lifeline.

"This lockdown will end and when it does this package means businesses will be ready to ramp back up quickly and keep the recovery going," she says.

"Once again state and federal governments have stepped in and put workers first by keeping them connected to their employers.

"The federal government has demonstrated again its willingness to step in, support states and make the changes needed to keep people working and businesses going."

Westacott adds this new package also gives workers and employers in other parts of the country more certainty of support if they are forced into more lockdowns.

"However our focus must always be on getting the systems in place to prevent these lockdowns in the future," she says.

"Vaccination is our ticket back to normality, so the business community are working closely with governments to ensure we're ready to get people protected quickly once the supply is available.

"As more and more people are vaccinated, National Cabinet should quickly implement the plan to unwind restrictions with clear timelines and achievable targets."

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has also welcomed the initiative announced today.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra says the package will provide small businesses in particular with the confidence they need and will help alleviate some of the mental health pressures staff and business owners confront with extended lockdowns.

"It's clear we will be living with COVID for some time and we are pleased to see a national approach to support measures for extended lockdowns," he says.

"We have a situation where many businesses are facing weeks of lost revenue, with no end in sight and some are preparing to close for good. Displaced workers are unsure how they're going to pay their bills and rent.

"The economic support package has certainly come as a welcome relief. We're into week three of this lockdown, and people and businesses up until now have been trying to survive without a proper safety net in place."

Zahra notes one of the successful aspects of JobKeeper was keeping employees linked to their employers, so the ARA is pleased to to see the return of this connection as part of today's announcement.

"Lockdowns have a heavy social and economic cost. The lockdown in NSW is costing around a billion dollars a week in terms of lost retail trade. It's also taking a toll on people's health and wellbeing, and we are pleased to see the additional mental health supports," Zahra explains.

"The vaccination program is critical. It's the only way we'll seen an end to these sorts of lockdowns and restrictions that are devastating businesses and livelihoods.

"The ARA is working closely with the Federal Government and other industry groups on solutions to expediate the vaccine rollout. The retail industry stands ready to support this effort in whatever way it can."

Updated at 4.27pm AEST on 13 July 2021.

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