Coronavirus-hit businesses will get easier access to wage subsidies with the federal government injecting a further $15 billion into JobKeeper.
In a move designed to cushion the economic sledgehammer blow of Victoria’s outbreak, eligibility criteria will be eased when the scheme scales back at the end of September.
Under the national changes, businesses will have to demonstrate a significant fall in turnover for the September quarter compared to the same period last year.
Previously, businesses and not-for-profits seeking JobKeeper from September 28 to January 3 would have to have show a significant fall in turnover in both the June and September quarters.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government was focused on saving lives and livelihoods.
“The JobKeeper program is there when the virus hits and it’s hit hard in Victoria in particular,” he told 2GB radio on Friday.
“There’ll be some additional people who get access to it we expect in other states and territories but it’s principally Victoria.”
Businesses and not-for-profits will have to qualify again in January but it will be based off the December quarter rather than the two previous three-month periods.
Business Council Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said the changes are critical to keeping workers in jobs, and ensuring businesses can survive the economic fallout of Covid-19.
“The government has once again listened and acted on concerns that businesses have raised as economic conditions deteriorate, especially in hard hit Victoria,” Westacott said.
“People are worried about the future and we endorse the government’s actions in targeting taxpayers’ money in saving jobs and creating new ones.
“Jobs are the key to the recovery and it is vital that we save the jobs of as many people as we can.”
The payment is currently $1500 a fortnight but will be cut to $1200 for full-time employees from October to December.
It will then fall to $1000 until March.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is sticking by the reduction, while arguing the program will support four million workers.
“It’s the most significant and substantial – and expensive – government support program in Australia’s history,” he told ABC television.
Staff who were employed as of July 1 will now be able to access the program.
Treasury predicts an additional 530,000 Victorians will receive JobKeeper in the September quarter, bringing the total to 1.5 million workers across the state.
In the March quarter, it is expected 60 per cent of recipients will be Victorian, compared with the 44 per cent initially forecast.
Mr Morrison said Victoria’s harsh lockdown will put up to 400,000 people out of work and drive the national unemployment rate to 10 per cent by year’s end.
The revised Treasury forecast is for a reduction in real gross domestic product in the September quarter of up to $12 billion.