JobKeeper saved my business and the thought of being forced to pay it back worries me


Source: Unsplash/Green Chameleon.

A Perth small business owner and SmartCompany reader shares her experience with JobKeeper, in light of growing calls for businesses to pay back the wage subsidies if their revenue increased during 2020. 

As someone who received the first round of JobKeeper, but didn’t need the second round, I’m concerned about the news of clawback provisions and the possibility of disclosure requirements. 

For me, JobKeeper was a lifesaver. All my in-person business was cancelled the day lockdowns started. My pipeline dried up overnight as everyone suspended normal business until they understood what impact the lockdowns would have. I think there were plenty of businesses that assumed they could ride it out in the early days so no one was commissioning projects. In those early months, I had no idea what it would mean to my business in the long term. My husband, a chemical engineer, lost his job, but didn’t qualify for JobKeeper (his employer didn’t even bother with it) or JobSeeker because he’d earned too much. 

I ended up having a terrific year and it was because JobKeeper filled in the gap when everything was uncertain. My current concern is the government and JobKeeper detractors are saying, “Oh look, they shouldn’t have received JobKeeper because they made money”, but it’s the wrong way to look at it. I made money because of JobKeeper. It did its job. It kept me afloat and gave me time to regroup, rethink my business and, more importantly, I was still viable when old customers and new customers came looking for work. 

JobKeeper’s eligibility requirements were for immediate losses. It did not have a requirement that you were only eligible if you predicted you would end the year at a loss. 

Should I pay it back? I don’t believe so. Paying it back would be another hardship because it wasn’t given as a loan and I didn’t manage it as a loan. I remain the sole provider for our family and, until international travel resumes or WA lockdowns end, it’s unlikely my husband will find another job. And, frankly, we had no idea he would be long-term unemployed given his skill set and work history, but that’s another story.

This small business owner is known to SmartCompany but she has chosen to contribute this opinion anonymously.

How do you feel about the JobKeeper debate? Send us an email at to share your opinion. 


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8 months ago

It should be paid back. As a tax payer I am on the hook for this massive waste of money, and I didn’t get a single cent, but I am expected to pay it back for everyone who did.

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