Businesses are set to receive fortnightly wage subsidies to the tune of $1500 per employee as part of the Federal Government's latest measure to relieve the pressure on the economy in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a press conference in Canberra today, the flat-rate JobKeeper payments will be made through the ATO's single-touch payroll system for businesses from the first week of May, with payments to be backdated to 30 March.
The payments are available to businesses who have experienced a downturn of at least 30 per cent as a result of the pandemic. Businesses must register their interest for the JobKeeper payment through the ATO's website.
The Prime Minister said the JobKeeper payment amount is equivalent to 70 per cent of the national median wage, and represents about 100 per cent of the wage in sectors most heavily impacted by the current health crisis, including the hospitality industry, as well as the tourism and retail sectors.
"Our plan will see our businesses large and small right across our entire economy share the load with our welfare system to deliver these important income supports. Our JobKeeper plan sees every Australian worker the same way, no matter what you earn," said the Prime Minister at a press conference this afternoon. "There is not more support for some as there is for others. If one person falls on a hard time, if anyone falls on a hard time, it's the same hard time. We're all in this together."
The scheme has been designed to help keep businesses afloat and employees in work, and enable businesses to rebound after the pandemic passes. "This unprecedented level of support reflects the unprecedented moment that we are in. The announcement today is the means by which Australians can get to the other side of this coronavirus crisis," said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
The payments apply to full-time and part-time workers who have been stood down by their employers since 1 March. Sole traders, and casual workers who have been with their employers for 12 months or longer, are also eligible for the payments. The scheme also applies to New Zealand workers on 444 temporary worker visas.
Frydenberg said the latest rescue package – the third announced by the Federal Government this month – is more far-reaching than wage subsidy schemes already announced by other nations. "It is more generous to New Zealand's scheme, it is broader than the United Kingdom's scheme. Our scheme is uniquely Australian, with every eligible employee receiving the same wage subsidy," he said.
Restaurant & Catering Industry Association has welcomed the news, but cautioned that the package only applies to operating businesses.
"It's very important that restaurants continue to trade through this crisis, and be innovative and do delivery and takeaway, become mini grocery stores – anything they can to make it through the crisis. Because this stimulus package, like other packages, is for businesses who keep their doors open," said CEO Wes Lambert.
"As the Prime Minister has said many times, this is the time for businesses to be talking to their banks, ATO and landlords to ensure they can stay open until the stimulus dollars start to flow."