The federal government has unveiled plans to expand the JobKeeper scheme in response to the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

JobKeeper will now cover staff employed from 1 July 2020 and, post 28 September 2020, businesses will only need to show their actual turnovers have significantly declined in the previous quarter to be eligible.

For example, if a business employed a new team member from 1 July, they will now be able to claim JobKeeper payments to cover their wages from 3 August.

Businesses that experience a significant decline in turnover during the September quarter will be eligible during the December quarter.

More than 80 percent of the payments are expected to flow to Victorian businesses affected by stage four and stage three restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria.

However, the changes will apply nationwide. The total cost of JobKeeper will increase to $101.3 billion, with approximately 4 million Australians receiving JobKeeper payments at the end of the September quarter, 2.24 million in the December quarter and 1.75 million in the March 2021 quarter. The scheme, which currently provides a flat rate $1500 fortnightly payment for eligible employees, was originally costed at $130bn in March, before being revised down to $70bn in May.

“As a Government we’ve responded to the changes that have taken place in Victoria,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a press conference on Friday 7 August, adding: “This is not an arrangement that has been put in place specifically for Victoria. It’s a national program. There’ll be many people in their states and territories who will also benefit from the changes that have been made for eligibility.”

The expansion comes after Morrison Government announced its plan to phase out JobKeeper and introduce more stringent turnover testing through the December 2020 and March 2021 quarters.

Commenting on ABC Insiders over the weekend, outgoing Finance Minister Mathias Cormann suggested the government intends to continue the rollback but is open to further flexibility. “We do need to transition out of this historically unprecedented crisis-level fiscal support,” said Minister Cormann. “I just would point to our track record: we’ve been flexible in the past when it comes to what has been a rapidly evolving and fluid situation.”

The scheme has seen mixed reviews from the hospitality industry, with many developing initiatives to support ineligible visa holders including Melbourne restaurateur Jessi Singh, nationwide pub and bar group Australian Venue Co. and TGI Friday’s parent company Signature Hospitality.

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