NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian is in talks with the federal government about extra financial support as Sydney’s Covid outbreak worsens.
The city recorded 172 new cases on Tuesday, the highest number since 205 infections on April 15, 2020.
With no hope of lockdown ending on Friday as planned, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has asked Prime Minister Scott Morrison to reinstate JobKeeper, the wage subsidy scheme which paid struggling companies $1,500 per worker per fortnight in 2020.
Gladys Berejiklian is in talks with the federal government about extra financial support as Sydney’s Covid outbreak worsens
Members of the public line up at a pop up vaccination clinic in the western suburb of Merrylands in Sydney
Ms Berejiklian on Tuesday said conversations with the Commonwealth were ongoing.
Asked if she wanted JobKeeper back, Ms Berejiklian refused to comment, saying: ‘I’ll leave it at that’.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Commonwealth is open to considering extra support.
‘Our policies are never set and forget. You never know what is around the corner, you need to be flexible, you need to respond to changing circumstances,’ he said.
‘We continue to assess all our payments, both business and income support, and determine the right payments for the right circumstances.’
But Mr Frydenberg said the federal government’s $600 per week pandemic disaster payment was faster than JobKeeper and better targeted to people who need it.
Cafe workers have been left without work due to the lockdown which has closed restaurants
Josh Frydenberg has slapped down calls to bring back JobKeeper as Sydney faces another lockdown extension. Pictured: A Coles worker
‘The payments are being made in about 40 minutes,’ he said.
‘They are also targeted because they are based on the number of hours lost rather than the turnover reduction of the business that you work for.
‘Also, the net has been cast wider with all casuals being eligible for these payments,’ he said.
The payments of $600 a week for people who lose more than 20 hours and $375 for people who lose 8-20 hours will continue as long as lockdowns last, the government has said.
Mr Fyrdenberg said JobKeeper was a national scheme set up in early 2020 when the unemployment rate was expected to skyrocket to 15 per cent.
It required companies to take out loans from banks, pay their workers and then get re-reimbursed by the government weeks later.
By contrast, the pandemic disaster payment goes straight into the workers’ bank accounts.
On top of that payment, there is business financial support worth up to 40 per cent of a company’s wage bill that requires companies to maintain headcount.
Mr Perrottet wants JobKeeper back because it keeps employees tied to their companies.
‘As case numbers escalate or remain stubborn, there will need to be extra financial support from the federal government,’ he told the Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday.
‘We believe that Jobkeeper was instrumental in keeping the nexus between workers and businesses. This won’t be forever, but we do need it now because when NSW goes well, the country goes well.’
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet wants JobKeeper back because it keeps employees tied to their companies. Pictured: A Sydney barista during lockdown
Mr Morrison said he was open to considering further support if the situation gets worse.
The government is ‘very open to consider how we deal with the situation as it further evolves,’ he said.
Australia’s biggest union, the ACTU, wants immediate cash grants for small businesses and says current assistance measures are ‘confusing, inadequate and often administratively burdensome’.
It dismissed the disaster payments dismissed as ‘grossly inadequate’
ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said the government should add casuals to JobKeeper, a ‘tried and tested system’.
‘The current disaster payment is less than the minimum wage and less than what workers received during lockdowns in 2020,’ she said.
How to claim the $600 lockdown payment if you lose work
Australians who lose more than 20 hours of work a week can claim a $600 disaster payment from the federal government, and those who lose less than 20 hours can claim $375.
To claim the cash you’ll need a Centrelink online account linked to your myGov. It’s easy to set these up.
Once you’re logged in, you will be asked a few questions about your situation to see if you’re eligible.
Officials need to know if you lived or worked in a Covid-19 hotspot that’s under lockdown or restricted movement.
Once you’ve completed your claim, hit submit and officials will process it for you.
You don’t need to call them, they’ll send you an SMS when you successfully submit your claim.
If you are eligible, officials will make a payment into your bank account and send you a letter with the details.
For more information click here