As Victorian businesses brace for stage four lockdown restrictions, there’s one question on the minds of many. Namely, what’s going to happen with JobKeeper?
While the Victorian state government’s $10,000 grants for businesses have been welcomed, they’re a drop in the bucket compared to the JobKeeper wage subsidy, which many businesses are relying on to keep staff on the books at the moment.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is considering tweaking eligibility requirements for the $86 billion program past September, to ensure businesses in Victoria can access the scheme into October and beyond.
“We’re looking at the eligibility question … We don’t want businesses that have been really badly hit through the September period, but may not have met the 30% threshold in the June period, [to miss out]. We want to make sure we can get support to them as well,” Frydenberg told the ABC on Monday.
The first phase of the JobKeeper program expires on September 27, several weeks after Melbourne’s six-week stage four lockdown is due to end.
Basically, the federal government wants to avoid a situation where businesses in Victoria are ineligible for the JobKeeper program because their turnover picked up in the period between coronavirus lockdowns.
But businesses are concerned the runway between them being able to open up again and losing access to the crucial payments is too small, and could cripple their ability to get trading back under their belts in October.
Asked on Monday whether the federal government would delay paring back the $1500 payment at the end of September, as is currently planned, Prime Minister Scott Morrison equivocated.
“We’re talking about something two-and-a-half months from now,” Morrison said.
“We’re into August, it’s the end of September. So we’re talking about something many weeks from now, and we’ll be making further assessments of that.”
The stakes are pretty high for Victoria, with the stage four lockdown slated to see up to 250,000 workers stood down as retailers shut down and other businesses move into reduced operations.
The JobKeeper program is particularly important for sole traders, which have been left out of Victoria’s $10,000 grant program.
But Morrison said JobKeeper will remain a national program, ruling out measures that would apply to Victoria specifically.
“What’s important is that those businesses and employees who have been impacted particularly by these decisions will continue to get the support of JobKeeper, and I believe they will,” Morrison said.
“They’ll qualify for JobKeeper now. And so I’d encourage them to make those applications if they’re not already on JobKeeper.”