The federal JobKeeper coronavirus program is currently set to end on March 28, removing the struts which kept Australia’s businesses open through pandemic-related closures.
The program’s enrollment peaked in the quarter ending September 2020, with 3.75 million workers receiving the subsidy that month, but by December that figure was down to 1.54 million, with the bulk of those payments going to Victoria (626,000 workers).
In September, the regulations were changed, starting to step down the program’s support. Adelong Gold Rush Cafe owner Rick Singh said his JobKeeper payments stopped at that time.
“We were not eligible to get any since September,” he explained.
“Mostly it’s me and my wife [working at the cafe]. It’s alright, still going. It did pick up a bit before they shut the borders. The school holidays were really good, but when the kids went back to school, it slowed down a bit.”
Mr Singh had been concerned last year about how his business would survive after the dual disasters of the fires and Covid and said that the year has been difficult, but “not too bad.”
He said he doesn’t know of any business owners still receiving JobKeeper support.
“Only very rarely anyone is getting it,” he said. “None of my friends have been getting it since last year.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the numbers show that Australia is ready to wind down JobKeeper.
“These improvements have been broad based across the country and we have seen encouraging signs across all sectors,” he said.
Margaret Langridge, Owner/Manager of Helloworld Travel in Tumut, is one of those few who qualified for the extended JobKeeper payment past last September’s cut-off.
“We are currently still receiving the job keeper payments and they are set to end on the 28th March,” she said.
The payments have allowed Helloworld Travel Tumut to keep the business open, paying staff while they support our clients with travel cancellations, refunds and credits.
“With the current situation of borders closing within Australia, it is very hard for people to plan any travel with confidence,” said Mrs Langridge, “At this stage we are not even able to utilise the many credits we have on hold.
“Obviously if JobKeeper is not extended past the 28th of March in either its current form or in a slightly different format, we will find it extremely hard moving forward.”
Anthony McFarlane, Regional Manager for BusinessNSW in Murray-Riverina, said it would be crucial for many small businesses for JobKeeper to continue in some form.
“We found in the most recent business conditions survey that BusinessNSW conducted for the December quarter across NSW, 23 per cent of businesses believed they were at high risk of failure when support such as JobKeeper, tax relief and interest waivers and other measures come to an end,” said Mr McFarlane.
“We’re supporting the Australian Chamber of Commerce and industry’s call to introduce a new program of wage subsidy post-March to support businesses heavily impacted by government restrictions, especially those in travel, tourism and hospitality sectors.”
Mr McFarlane and BusinessNSW say that business owners need “more certainty on the new arrangements going forward” to enable them to plan their way through the various forms of restrictions and border closures in place.