Australia’s largest childcare provider has been thrown a lifeline during the coronavirus pandemic after the Morrison government eased the rules around its wage subsidy scheme.
However, the change will not be enough to save fellow charity Uniting, which warns it may still need to shut down childcare centres.
Goodstart and other charities will now be eligible for the $130 billion program if they have suffered a 15 per cent decline in turnover as a result of the outbreak.
Before, Goodstart and other organisations with annual turnovers of more than $1 billion needed to demonstrate a 50 per cent cut to their revenues.
Goodstart chief executive Julia Davidson said the change would bring relief to 60,000 Australian families across the not-for-profit’s 665 centres.
“While the legislation won’t be introduced into parliament until Wednesday, we are very relieved that once it is passed, we will be able to continue to support families in our centres across the nation,” she told AAP.
“Access to JobKeeper payments is vital as it will ensure that we can trade through this very difficult time.”
Uniting is one of the few remaining childcare providers not to benefit from the wage subsidy scheme.
Because the charity also offers youth and aged care services, it probably won’t take a 15 per cent hit to its revenues.
But Uniting is struggling to keep its childcare centres open, leaving 4500 kids and 850 staff in a precarious position.
Head of early learning Rod Nadwie-Smith said without access to the JobKeeper scheme, Uniting would lose up to $2.7 million across NSW and the ACT over the next three months.
“We’ll continue to make a substantial loss and will have no choice but to close some services,” he said.
“We’re worried about the uncertain future this creates for our hardworking teams. This will also hurt the families that rely on us during this extraordinary time.”
Uniting wants the 15 per cent revenue test to apply only to its childcare services, not the broader organisation.
Attendance at Uniting day care centres has halved during the COVID-19 outbreak, while pre- and after-school care has plummeted by 80 per cent.
“Yet, this isn’t enough to meet the JobKeeper test, which is applied to the whole organisation,” Mr Nadwie-Smith said.
“So, even if we lose 100 per cent of our early learning revenue, we still won’t qualify.”
Through the JobKeeper scheme, which is designed to save Australian businesses from financial ruin, the federal government will pay workers affected by the economic shutdown $1500 a fortnight.
Uniting is also concerned the federal scheme does not extend to preschools, urging the NSW government to step up and support the sector.