Business groups believe the federal government’s latest JobKeeper changes aimed at virus-hit Victoria will ensure more people stay in work.
Businesses will get easier access to the wage subsidies program with the injection of a further $15 billion, taking its total funding to just over $100 billion.
In a move designed to cushion the economic sledgehammer blow of Victoria’s outbreak, eligibility criteria will be eased when the scheme scales back at the end of September.
Under the national changes, businesses will have to demonstrate a significant fall in turnover for the September quarter compared to the same period last year.
Previously, businesses and not-for-profits seeking JobKeeper from September 28 to January 3 would have had to show a significant fall in turnover in both the June and September quarters.
Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said the changes would make it easier for businesses to retain workers and would boost confidence in the community.
“The changes to the eligibility test reflect the upheaval and uncertainty in the jobs market and the changes to the turnover test reflect that businesses are struggling,” she said in a statement on Friday.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO James Pearson agreed jobs would be saved, but said it wouldn’t be enough to help every struggling business.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government was focused on saving lives and livelihoods.
“Quite understandably and rightly we’re all very focused on the hardships being experienced in Melbourne and across Victoria, but let’s not forget in the rest of the country there are many businesses still doing it tough, there are many households that are also doing it tough,” he told reporters in Canberra.
The Greens said the changes don’t go far enough, urging the government to expand the program to include childcare workers, casuals, university staff and workers on temporary visas.
Businesses and not-for-profits will have to qualify again in January, but it will be based off the December quarter rather than the two previous three-month periods.
The payment is currently $1500 a fortnight, however it will be cut to $1200 for full-time employees from October to December.
It will then fall to $1000 until March.
Staff who were employed as of July 1 will now be able to access the program.
Treasury predicts an additional 530,000 Victorians will receive JobKeeper in the September quarter, bringing the total to 1.5 million workers across the state.
Victoria’s harsh lockdown is expected to put up to 400,000 people out of work and drive the national unemployment rate to 10 per cent by year’s end.
Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers says the government needs a jobs plan to help Australians recover from the crisis.
The retail, fast-food and warehouse workers union is calling on other major retailers to pay staff after Wesfarmers announced it would pay people affected for the six weeks of Victoria’s stage four lockdown.