Prime Minister Scott Morrison has unveiled a new $130 billion economic stimulus package, which includes a wage subsidy for eligible businesses.

The fortnightly flat payment of $1500 per employee will be available to businesses who have experienced a downturn of 30 percent, as well as businesses with an annual turnover of more $1 billion who have lost more than 50 percent.

Full-time and part-time employees and sole traders are eligible for the payments. Casuals who have been with their business for more than 12 months are also eligible. Any employees that were on the books as of 1 March can access the payments.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said workers who have already lost their jobs would still be eligible for this payment. “If they were on the books from March 1, they would be employees who would be eligible for this payment,” he said. “If you were an employer who was forced to retrench workers, you will put them back on your books and you will be eligible for this payment.”

The JobKeeper payment is a flat rate payment, meaning all employees will receive the same amount. The plan is expected to support six million Australians over the next six months.

It is hoped the scheme will keep employees connected to their employers and provide an incentive to businesses to adapt to the current situation.

“We will pay employers to pay their employees and make sure they do,” said Prime Minister Morrison. “To keep them in the businesses that employ them and to ensure they can get ready together to bounce back on the other sides.” 

He continued: “We want to keep the engine of our economy running through this crisis. It may run on idle for a time, but it must continue to run. 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.”

Employees will not need to apply through the welfare system, as the would for a JobSeeker payment. Instead, employers will pay employees and the government will then reimburse employers.

Businesses are legally obliged to pass the payment on to employees. The subsidy will flow through the ATO Employers can register with the ATO now for JobKeeper updates.

New Zealanders on 444 visas are eligible for this payment, but the Prime Minister said other temporary visa holders were not currently included. However, he added more details were being worked out.

“New Zealanders on 444 visas don’t get access to the welfare system, but they are getting access to this JobKeeper payment,” said Mr Morrison. “They’re connected to businesses here, they have commitments here, they own and rent properties, and they are part of an ongoing economy here in Australia.”

The package is on a scale “no Australian has ever witnessed” and was referred to as “uniquely Australian” by Mr Morrison.

Mr Frydenberg said the payments are the equivalent 70 percent of the median wage for Australians, or 100 percent of the median wage for industries worst affected by the crisis, namely hospitality, retail and tourism.

The latest stimulus comes on the back of two previous packages worth a combined $83.8 billion.

More to come.

Image credit: ABC from 12 March 2020

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