The Federal Government has made more changes to its coronavirus income support program JobKeeper, and you might soon find yourself on the payment, even if you weren’t before.
Prompted by shutdowns in Victoria, the Government will pour billions of extra dollars into the scheme, allowing for hundreds of thousands of new workers to access it.
Here’s the latest.
What’s changing with JobKeeper?
There are two changes being made. The first is to the business turnover test, and the second is to employee eligibility.
As part of the JobKeeper extension past September, businesses were going to face tougher requirements to prove the impact COVID-19 was having on their revenues.
To qualify for the first extension period (28 September to 3 January), businesses would have needed to show their actual GST turnover had fallen in both the three months to June and the three months to September.
Instead, they’ll now only have to show it fell in the September quarter.
Similarly, for the second extension period (January 4 to March 28), they’ll only need to demonstrate a significant downturn in the three months before December, rather than for the June and September quarters as well.
When it comes to workers’ eligibility, the deadline has been pushed back so that staff employed at July 1, rather than March 1, will qualify.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says both changes will help businesses which started bouncing back and hiring people after the first wave of coronavirus cases, only to have to shut down again.
How many people will be affected, and how much will it cost?
The Government expects the Victorian shutdowns, coupled with the eligibility changes, will push up the number of JobKeeper recipients in that state by 530,000, to 1.5 million people in the September quarter
That will see 4 million Australians covered overall.
Those numbers are forecast to come down in the later stages of the expanded program. In the March 2021 quarter, 60 per cent of all recipients are expected to be Victorian.
The changes are expected to add an extra $15.6 billion to the total cost of the scheme, bringing the latest estimate to more than $101 billion.
What about businesses outside Victoria?
While the Victorian Government’s shutdowns mean the changes will mostly affect businesses in Victoria, they’ll apply across the country.
“There are some businesses outside Victoria that have taken on new staff, for example, as they started to open up,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“There’ll be other businesses that may continue to do it tough because they’re in particular sectors that have been hit hard.
“And they may have seen a boost for example in the June quarter as a result of our instant asset write-off initiatives, which, for example in the motor vehicle industry, has led to an increase in sales in some cases.”
Is the JobKeeper rate still being cut?
The announcement today doesn’t change the tapering off of the JobKeeper rate.
It’s scheduled to drop from the current flat payment of $1,500 per fortnight to $1,200 from September 28 and then $1,000 on January 4.
For people working less than 20 hours a week, the rate will fall to $750, and then $650.
Mr Frydenberg argues the rate isn’t changing until after the current Victorian shutdowns are due to end, and that the lower amount will still provide significant support.
But Finance Minister Mathias Cormann says the Government will be closely monitoring what happens on the health front.
“Currently the arrangements are as they are, but as we’ve demonstrated, and as we’re demonstrating again today, we’ll continue to make judgements based on how this situation continues to evolve,” he told Sky News.