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 sensible changes will make it easier for businesses to retain workers and will 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 will be saved as a result of the changes in the face of slumping revenue from the Victorian lockdown and tighter border restrictions.
“Despite these changes … this revision will not provide help to every business that is struggling and we will continue to work with government on ways that jobs and businesses can receive the support needed,” he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government was focused on saving lives and livelihoods.
“The JobKeeper program is there when the virus hits and it’s hit hard in Victoria in particular,” he told 2GB radio on Friday.
“There’ll be some additional people who get access to it we expect in other states and territories but it’s principally Victoria.”
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 but will be cut to $1200 for full-time employees from October to December.
It will then fall to $1000 until March.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is sticking by the reduction, while arguing the program will support four million workers.
“It’s the most significant and substantial – and expensive – government support program in Australia’s history,” he told ABC television.
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.
In the March quarter, it is expected 60 per cent of recipients will be Victorian, compared with the 44 per cent initially forecast.