The eligibility test for the JobKeeper wage subsidy has been changed by federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in a nod to the compulsory shutdown of thousands of Victorian businesses this week due to the state government’s stage 4 restrictions.
The Treasurer has eased the criteria, which also applies nationally, so businesses now only have to show their turnover has fallen in the last quarter to qualify for the extension to the wage subsidy. Businesses previously had to show their turnover was down over the June and September quarters, compared with 2019 revenue.
The eased eligibility test is predicted to add an extra $15.6 billion in support to workers through the businesses that employ them, with the vast bulk of the money going to Victorian workers.
The $1500 fortnightly payment runs until the end of September, but is then reduced to $1200 for full-time staff and $750 a fortnight for employees working less than 20 hours a week, and runs until March 2021.
The JobKeeper program was initially slated to end on September 28, before the federal government announced an extension to the scheme last month.
Under the new criteria, businesses will only have to show turnover has fallen in the September quarter, compared to the corresponding quarter in 2019, to be eligible for the wage subsidy after September 28.
Frydenberg said businesses that said a brief pick up in trade as restrictions were lifted, only to close again, will likely now qualify for the scheme.
“We’re now saying that you need to be just down in the September quarter. This will take into account those businesses that were doing OK through April, May and June but have obviously been subject to lockdown now,” Frydenberg said.
The criteria for eligible workers was also eased, with employees who joined a business by July 1, now eligible for the subsidy.
“Again, this change means more people can access the program because as businesses were starting to open up, as progress was made on the health front, more employees were coming on the books of businesses. Now, of course, they’re being subject to lockdown. So this will allow the JobKeeper program to cover them,” Frydenberg told ABC Breakfast this morning.
Frydenberg said the government was “deeply concerned” about the economic blow of the Victorian shutdowns on the economy.
“The reality is, as Treasury have forecast, it will hit the economy by between $10-12 billion in the September quarter and we’ll see between 250,000 and 400,000 Victorian employees either stood down or – stood down to zero hours or who lose their job as a result of these stage 4 restrictions. This is a really difficult time for Victorian families and Victorian businesses.”
Frydenberg said it is expected that around $13 billion of the $15.6 billion of the expanded JobKeeper program will go to prop up Victorian businesses.
On Monday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced more than 250,000 additional Victorian workers would have to either work from home, or be left without work as thousands of businesses were forced to shut under the stage 4 restrictions.
The extra $15.6 billion in funding will push the costs of the total JobKeeper package to $102 billion. The government originally forecast the scheme to cost $130 billion.
The Victorian government is also offering $10,000 grants to small businesses in Melbourne hit by the latest lockdowns and $5000 for regional companies.