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Minister of Finance Grant Robertson. Photo: Pool / NZME
Minister of Finance Grant Robertson. Photo: Pool / NZME
Finance Minister Grant Robertson will work through details of a plan to extend the wage subsidy scheme after the Government announced the continuation of current Covid-19 lockdown settings for at least another 12 days.

The scheme will be extended nationwide to protect jobs, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, adding that she was mindful of the "extraordinary disruption to business" from renewed lockdown restrictions.

Auckland will stay at alert level 3 restrictions, while the rest of the country remains at level 2, and the Government will review the settings again on August 21.

The Government had earlier put $14 billion of a Covid-19 fund aside in case there was a second wave of the virus.

The first subsidy was initially available for 12 weeks, but it was extended until September 1. To date some $13 billion has been handed out to businesses in need.

Ardern said details of the extension would be finalised over the weekend, but it will be nationwide and will cover the period of time that level 3 restrictions are in place.

According to economic consultancy NZIER, lockdown measures to date have knocked out three years' worth of GDP growth, wiping $21 billion off the size of the economy and bringing it back to 2016 levels.

Earlier today Westpac said a short period of lockdown at alert levels 2 and 3 "would have little lasting economic impact" to the economy.

However, a new level 4 lockdown would have "more severe" economic implications although "international experience shows that losing control of the virus would be much more damaging to the economy" than further lockdowns.

David Searle, National chairman of Baker Tilly Staples Rodway, said leaving Auckland in Level 3 and the rest of the country at Level 2 until 11.59pm on Wednesday 26th August seems an appropriate response.

"If things improve quicker than expected the Government should revisit when they review settings on August 21.

"The extension of the wage subsidy is welcomed especially for badly affected industries," he said.

Sick leave and mortgage deferral scheme

Robertson said Cabinet had also decided to modify the Covid-19 Sick Leave Scheme to make it more accessible.

Details of the "in principle decision" would be finalised over the weekend and announced on Monday.

An extension to the mortgage deferral scheme had also been agreed in-principle as part of the plan to support households, as the existing scheme expires on September 27.

Details, including the length of the extension, would be announced next week.

"The latest Covid-19 outbreak is obviously disappointing, especially for businesses that have just got up and running again," Robertson said.

"We have always said that the best economic response is a strong health response. We have moved quickly to identify cases and contact-trace as part of the resurgence plan announced by the Prime Minister in July."

Open and shut rules for business "unfair"

Auckland Business Chamber CEO Michael Barnett said today that the Government should focus on "crushing the cluster, not businesses who are being denied the opportunity to trade" when they can comply with lockdown and alert level hygiene, safety and security rules.

"The system designating some businesses as "essential" while others have to shut down when they provide the same services and products is an unfair lottery, picking winners and losers," Mr Barnett said in a statement.

"Supermarkets can sell everything, the local dairy is open, but the local butcher or greengrocer has to close. Abattoirs, manufacturers, exporters, hospitality outlets and retail shops all have to shut or their operations restricted. Why? Complying with rules and regulations is what they do every day."

Mr Barnett said that discussions with Treasury over continuation of the wage subsidy and other support mechanisms to help ease cash flow, provide some certainty to employment and business continuity have been constructive, Mr Barnett said.

Comments

Is it fair that a shelf stacker in a supermarket pays taxes to a government who then turns around and pays say an airline pilot their pay. The stacker earns a sixth of the pilot, and yet the pilot sits around getting the subsidy whilst the other works pays for it. Is that fair?

Yes it's fair and what a strange comparison. You might want to look up the average NZ commercial pilot salary. A "shelf stacker" makes less than 10K a year?

Agreed, this was an "ok" idea to start with, but ongoing it is unsustainable. A lot of essential workers are low paid, cleaners (bless them, that was my dear mothers job), food factory workers etc. They pay the politicians wages, and these politicians and senior government officials are shockingly incompetent. Apparently we are to lockdown to let this latest infection burn out. But why? why if they're still letting it in. It will be lockdown after lockdown. I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but when you're looking at a crime scene, and yes this is an economic crime, costing our families maybe billions from their slackness this time (not the essential workers in the facilities, they were pleading for testing), but to continue, at the crime scene a question must be asked, its Latin, Cui bono? (who benefits?). Think about it, who benefits, only the Labour Party, the clowns running this on fat wages, with an election coming up, wall to wall propaganda. Shame on them. I'm not saying they did it deliberately, but that they have no incentive to do their job. They get rewarded for their lack of governance with sycophantic questions and wall to wall TV just prior to an election.

 

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