Wage subsidy extended further

Grant Robertson says he is "as keen as anyone else" to move to level 1 next week.

The Finance Minister said the economy would be opened up even more within the next seven days if New Zealand makes the move.

Cabinet is set to decide if the country will move to level 1 on Monday.

But Robertson said there might be a need to move up alert levels if there was another outbreak.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson. Photo: Getty Images
Finance Minister Grant Robertson. Photo: Getty Images

Many people were "doing it tough", he said, but he noted that economists' comments in recent days that the economic carnage was not as bad as expected.

Benefit applications had flattened, he said, with 702 applications this week.

On May 29, the number of Jobseeker Support recipients reached 189,500 - about 6.3 per cent of the estimated working-age population.

Robertson said more than $1 billion has been lent to small businesses through its business loan scheme.

He said he was not considering making the loan scheme permanent "at this stage".

Extending the wage subsidy again would be looked at closely, he said.

"We don't have a specific plan to carry it on, but we want to remain responsive to need.

"Let's see how level 1 goes. Let's see what the impact is."

Retail sales had picked up better than expected, he said, and he said New Zealand could be confident that we were on top of the virus.

But there was still a global pandemic, and Robertson said that would affect the New Zealand economy.

The criteria to move to level 1 included breaking the chain of community transmission, whether the health system could handle a second wave, and the state of the economy.

Robertson sidestepped a question about armed police vehicles, which have been trialled and which the Greens oppose, and said he felt that the police should not be generally armed.

He added that the Prime Minister had raised concerns about the trial, and the Police Commissioner was "fully aware" of that feedback.

Extending the wage subsidy is estimated to cost an extra $700m, he said, paid for by the Covid recovery fund.

Asked about National's proposal for a $100m tourism fund, Robertson said the Government was more focused at protecting tourism operators at the moment.

The Government had announced $400m to support tourism in the Budget this year, but it was criticised as having little detail.

Robertson said protecting tourism assets was front of the Government's mind in helping the sector.

Wage subsidy boost - 40,000 more firms to get help

Businesses with a 40 per cent reduction in revenue because of Covid-19 are now eligible for the wage subsidy extension.

The Government today announced it was dropping the bar from 50 per cent would mean 40,000 more businesses could apply.

It's estimated up to 230,000 businesses, employing up to 910,000 workers, are now eligible for the eight-week scheme, which starts on June 10 when the previous wage scheme runs out.

That scheme has so far paid out more than $10.9 billion, covering 1.66 million jobs.

Small businesses will also be given more time to apply for the Small Business Cashflow Loan Scheme, with the application date being extended from June 12 to July 24.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said dropping the changes follows feedback from businesses.

"While many New Zealanders are now back at work and our economy is one of the most open in the world, there are businesses that will feel the impact of this global pandemic for longer.

"The tourism, retail and hospitality sectors will in particular be supported by the extended wage subsidy and cashflow support."

Minister for Small Business Stuart Nash said many businesses were still planning for the future because the economy had opened up more quickly than expected so needed longer access to the loan scheme.

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