CANBERRA, AAP – Prime Minister Scott Morrison has thrown an economic lifeline to Sydney residents and business owners hit by coronavirus lockdowns in NSW.
The federal government will shell out about $1.5 billion a fortnight on direct payments to help businesses and workers endure the extended lockdown.
Businesses affected by the lockdown in Sydney and the regions will be offered weekly payments of between $1500 and $10,000.
They will have to show a 30 per cent fall in turnover and cannot cut their staff.
Sole traders will be given $1000 a week, while workers will also receive increased support.
Employees who have lost at least 20 hours of work a week will be given $600, while staff who have lost less than 20 hours will get $375.
The multibillion dollar Commonwealth program will run alongside state supports.
“This package will continue for as long as the lockdown continues,” Mr Morrison told the Seven Network on Wednesday.
The prime minister dismissed “nonsense” suggestions from the Victorian government he was giving NSW preferential treatment after forcing their state to beg for scraps.
“When Victoria needed the Commonwealth, we were there. And when NSW needed the Commonwealth, we are here again. And we’ll continue to be there.”
Unions are concerned the scheme does not do enough to support workers and is open to rorting by unscrupulous employers.
Businesses fear they may not be able to navigate the strings attached.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said residents in southwest Sydney were struggling and needed support.
“People are doing it really tough,” he told the ABC.
“I had a small business owner on the phone to me last week crying, literally, because he employs 20 people, he’s built up this business over six or seven years, and he just was distraught at the idea of laying people off.
“I haven’t had the opportunity to speak to him since this package has been announced, but I certainly hope that it not only enables his business to survive, but enables him to keep on those employees.”