JobKeeper COVID-19 wage subsidy extended

The federal government has extended the time of the JobKeeper wage subsidy until the end of March 2021 but with limitations imposed as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hit the economy.

The scheme, which is now slated to finish on March 28 next year, will also be more targeted to businesses which continue to suffer significant impacts of the pandemic.

From 28 September 2020, eligibility for JobKeeper will be based on actual turnover in the relevant periods and the payment will be reduced.

The JobSeeker increase has also been reduced from $550 a fortnight to $250 a fortnight in additional funds from 25 September 2020 to 31 December 2020.

JobKeeper payments will fall from $1,500 to $1,200 a fortnight after September, while Australians working less than 20 hours a week will receive $750.

The JobKeeper payment will take another dive from January 4 2021 for the first three months of the year – Australians will receive $1,000 a fortnight, with those working less than 20 hours receiving $650.

From 28 September 2020, organisations seeking to claim JobKeeper payments will be required to reassess their eligibility for the JobKeeper extension with reference to their actual turnover in the June and September quarters of 2020.

Organisations will need to demonstrate that they have met the relevant continuing decline in turnover test in both of those quarters to be eligible for JobKeeper from 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021.

Businesses will also need to further reassess their eligibility in January 2021 for the period from 4 January to 28 March 2021. They will need to demonstrate that they have met the relevant continuing decline in turnover test in each of the previous three quarters to remain eligible for the March 2021 quarter.

The required decline in turnover remains unchanged – 50 per cent for businesses with an aggregated turnover in excess of $1 billion; 30 per cent for those with an aggregated turnover of $1 billion or less; and 15 per cent for local charities and not-for-profit commission-registered charities, which excludes universities and schools.

“JobKeeper is designed to reflect where businesses are hurting the most. It doesn’t matter which sector you’re in, JobKeeper is designed to find its level with those businesses who need it the most and employees who need it the most,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

“There will be businesses that will continue to be affected heavily by those restrictions and as a result, they’ll be in a position to continue to get access to JobKeeper going forward.”

As for the JobSeeker program, the $550 a fortnight supplement will be reduced to $250 from 25 September 2020 to 31 December 2020.

“You may have been getting $550; you can earn $300, and then there’s the $250 supplement that will come through the COVID supplement and that will run out till the end of this year,” Morrison mentioned.

Access to payments will change from 25 September 2020 to “ensure appropriate targeting of income support as the economy recovers”.

From 25 September 2020, means testing will be reinstated as asset testing for all payments will be required for both existing and new recipients, and the Liquid Assets Waiting Period (LAWP) for all payments will be reinstated.

The partner income test taper rate will increase from $0.25 to $0.27 on 25 September 2020 until 31 December 2020.

Morrison’s announcement follows The Real Media Collective’s release of a snapshot of its COVID-19 business survey findings which was used to call on the federal government to extend the JobKeeper scheme for the print and manufacturing sector beyond the initial September 30 cut-off date.

The survey found that on average businesses operating in the print, paper, mail and publishing sectors experienced a 55 per cent drop in business with some reporting revenue reductions as high as 80 per cent.

The figures also revealed that 85 per cent of businesses in these sectors believe financial assistance for wage support will need to be extended if these operations are to continue.

Ovato chairman Michael Hannan also recently made some grim forecasts about the JobKeeper scheme ending in September.

“Nothing like the COVID fallout has ever been on anyone’s risk analysis of what could go wrong, Hannan said previously.

“It is unprecendented and unless we get the ear of government, then this ‘fool’s paradise’ of JobKeeper is going to end with the destruction of many proud printing houses who have weathered everything else that has been thrown at them over many years.

“The impact of COVID-19 will not end anywhere near as surgically as JobKeeper is slated to end. Some assistance from government, even some recognition that what we do matters, would be helpful.”

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