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JobKeeper package gives business a fighting chance

Release Date: 30/03/2020
The JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme will give businesses a “fighting chance” of staying afloat and keeping staff employed through the coronavirus crisis, according to the Hunter Business Chamber.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced details of the $130 billion scheme this afternoon. It will provide businesses with a fortnightly wage subsidy of $1,500 per employee over six months to help them retain staff, if the business can demonstrate a drop in revenue of at least 30 per cent.
Hunter Business Chamber CEO Bob Hawes said the scale of the package acknowledged both the importance of small business to the national economy and the significance of the relationship between employers and employees in keeping a business operating successfully.
“The Chamber, along with our affiliate Business NSW, have argued a wage subsidy is essential to keeping businesses connected with their staff, and to avoid large job losses,” Mr Hawes said.
“Many of the inquiries we have received over recent weeks have come from despondent members who did not want to let their staff go but felt they had no choice.
“Many of those business owners and operators will now be in a position to retain staff and either continue trading or put their business into hibernation until they have an opportunity to scale it back up.
“It will be a lifeline for many businesses, large and small.”
Mr Hawes welcomed the extension of the scheme to fulltime, part-time and long-term casual workers, as well as sole traders and not-for-profit organisations.
“Some of the industries hardest hit by this crisis, such as tourism, retail and hospitality, are by nature highly casualised, so it is good to see they have been accommodated in this package,” he said.
“Additionally, the six-month time frame for the scheme will provide some certainty for employers in what are very volatile times, assisting with their continuity planning.”
With the scheme to come into effect immediately, Mr Hawes said the lag between employers being required to begin making payments to employees and receiving their first reimbursements from the Australian Tax Office in May could cause some hardship for businesses that have been losing money for weeks.
“We will be advocating to government through Business NSW on behalf of employers who might not be in a position to advance those payments initially and would urge patience from employees in these situations,” Mr Hawes said.
“We will also be asking that the administrative process for the scheme be as streamlined as possible, so businesses aren’t weighed down by unnecessary paperwork at a time when they need to be focused on adapting their business models to keep their doors open.”
Mr Hawes said the wage subsidy scheme would complement earlier stimulus initiatives that have been implemented by the state and federal governments and the actions banks had taken to extend mortgage and loan relief.
“Put together, these initiatives are giving business a fighting chance of meeting the enormous challenges before them,” Mr Hawes said.
Mr Hawes also welcomed changes to the eligibility requirements for the new Jobseeker allowance, which extend the partner income test to nearly $80,000 a year.
Eligible businesses will be able to apply for the Jobseeker payment online and can register their interest for JobKeeper updates on the ATO website.

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