Health bills, virus support costs NSW $29b

Pandemic support packages will cost the NSW budget bottom line $29 billion, including $1 billion to stock protective equipment and $6 billion on tax breaks.

Exactly a year after the first case of coronavirus was detected in central China, the 2020/21 NSW budget papers revealed some $4.2 billion spent on support and stimulus packages to June 30, 2020.

Another $7.8 billion will be dished out by the end of June 2021.

Waived and deferred taxes, fees and levies – led by huge cuts to payroll tax – kept more than $6 billion in the pockets of business owners and landlords.

More than $3 billion has been spent on the health response including quadrupling intensive care beds, running testing facilities and employing hotel quarantine.

“What the pandemic has put beyond dispute is that the NSW health system is the best in the nation,” NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet told parliament.

“That is no accident. Year after year our government has built it up, and in our state’s time of need, it was ready to go.”

Targeted stimulus for the arts sector, sports clubs, taxi drivers, charities and homeless cost more than $133 million.

Coronavirus is still costing the state economy $400 million a week, down from $1.4 billion at the height of the pandemic.

But economic activity is not expected to recover to pre-COVID-19 levels until 2021/22.

“The economic outlook hinges heavily on the timing of the removal of the remaining restrictions put in place to contain the virus, as well as public perceptions around the health risks,” the budget papers say.

“The lingering impacts from closed international borders and elevated rates of unemployment suggest a slower pace of recovery after the initial boost, rather than a rapid return to pre-COVID-19 levels of activity.”

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