‘Peace of mind’: Morrison and NSW announce $500m a week support package for locked-down Sydney | New South Wales
A multi-billion dollar economic support package for businesses and workers affected by the greater Sydney lockdown has been announced by the federal and NSW governments with funds to start flowing “as quickly as possible”.
The package, to be co-funded at a cost of more than $500m a week, includes increased payments for workers, a business support package, tax relief and mental health support.
Individuals who have lost more than 20 hours of work as a result of the lockdown will be able to access a Covid-19 disaster payment of $600 each week – up from $500. Those who have lost between eight and 20 hours of work can get $375 a week – up from $325.
To streamline the household payment system, the government announced it would make the disaster payment ongoing during a lockdown, meaning recipients will only need to apply once.
Small and medium-sized businesses will be able to access between $1500 and $10,000 a week paid to a maximum of 40% of their NSW payroll payments, providing they make a commitment not to shed staff and can demonstrate a 30% drop in turnover.
To receive the payment, businesses must maintain their full-time, part-time and long-term casual staffing level as of 13 July 2021.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, said it was in the national interest to ensure the NSW lockdown was effective. He said the demand-driven package would be in place for the duration of the lockdown.
“The NSW outbreak has proved to be more severe, more dangerous, and it’s in the national interest that we now put in place an updated set of arrangements,” Morrison said on Tuesday.
“It is in the national interest that we ensure that the lockdown that is occurring here in NSW will be effective … and that Australians living here in NSW and across the greater Sydney area know that the sacrifices they’re making will get the job done.
“We will support them through that. Help is here and help is on the way as well.”
The government said the level of support would apply nationally to any state or territory that experienced an extended lockdown beyond three weeks following the declaration of a commonwealth hotspot.
The assistance will stop when lockdown restrictions are eased or when the commonwealth hotspot declaration is removed.
When asked how the government would ensure that a business kept its staff, Morrison said “we expect people to honour their commitments”.
The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said the support package would give people “peace of mind”, which would help with compliance.
“When you provide that economic support for individuals and businesses, it gives us the freedom to do what we need to do on the health side by asking everybody to respect the advice that we’re providing, but also having that confidence not to leave the house unless you absolutely have to,” the premier said.
The NSW treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, said the package would provide support for “every business, every worker, right across the state”. He said the federal government had committed more than $5bn.
“We have said from the start we will prioritise the economy before the budget. So whether you are a casual worker or a permanent worker, a small business or a large business, the NSW government has your back,” Perrottet said.
Other state measures announced include the extension of small business grants and a decision to waive payroll tax bills for the first quarter of the year.
Tenancy support will be introduced for both commercial and residential renters, with land tax reductions and rebates in place for landlords who provide rental relief to their tenants. There is a ban on evictions.
The federal government will provide further tax support to businesses by making the NSW small business grants, including the new small business payments, tax exempt, and providing administrative relief through the tax system for businesses experiencing hardship.
A $17.4m mental health support package for NSW has also been announced, which will boost crisis and mental health services including Lifeline, free 24-hour support via Sonder, and counselling for perinatal depression and anxiety.
The package was unveiled as NSW recorded 89 new locally acquired Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, with 21 of these infectious while in the community. The state’s chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, confirmed that an eastern suburbs man in his 70s had died of coronavirus – the second death during the Sydney outbreak.
Berejikian said her “obsession” was to get the state out of lockdown “as quickly as we can”, with an announcement due by Thursday on whether it will be extended.
The federal shadow treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said the package fell short of what was needed to support businesses and workers.
“After leaving businesses and workers in limbo for the past two weeks scrambling to work out a plan, what Scott Morrison has announced today is not enough to give businesses any security and does not provide support for those who have already lost their job,” Chalmers said in a joint statement with other Labor MPs.
He said the package did not guarantee “the crucial link between employees and business” like jobkeeper did. “Labor is also concerned the 40 per cent subsidy may not be sufficient incentive for some employers to keep workers on and avoid stand-downs.”