Businesses want JobKeeper back

Pressure is increasing on the federal government to reinstate JobKeeper, as the NSW government prepares to extend the lockdown beyond this Friday's initial end date.

With case numbers failing to subside, the NSW government is said to be considering a lockdown extension, prompting groups like Business NSW to demand more financial support for businesses.

“We need to return to some sort of JobKeeper-style payment from the federal government, whether it’s funded federally, or state or both. But we need some sort of JobKeeper-style payment that goes directly to businesses so that they can keep people employed and keep their businesses open,” the chief executive of Business NSW, Daniel Hunter, told ABC Radio this morning.

Mr Hunter’s words follow a very public plea by state treasurer Dominic Perrottet, who told media over the weekend that NSW needs JobKeeper to keep the nexus between workers and businesses.

“This won’t be forever, but we do need it now because when NSW goes well, the country goes well,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

But despite these calls and signs of sheer exasperation in the small to medium business community, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is adamant the financial support currently on offer in NSW is adequate and proportionate to the situation.   

“JobKeeper was based on the decline in the businesses’ turnover and then payments were made effectively to the worker. What we’ve done here is provide them directly to the worker, not dependent on a business’s decline in turnover,” Mr Frydenberg told Sky News last week.

Instead, Mr Frydenberg backed the disaster payments of up to $600 for households, describing them as quick and flexible.

“We do have an effective response. It is being progressed very quickly, with more than half a million payments out the door — more than $200 million already out the door. And, of course, our objective here with these payments is the same as it was with JobKeeper, namely, to get support to the people who need it most,” Mr Frydenberg said.

However, the situation in many communities is not reflective of Mr Frydenberg’s words. In fact, as Mr Hunter shared with ABC Radio, the disaster payment may permanently be separating businesses from their staff members.

“That business may never come back,” Mr Hunter said.

“There is support there, but it’s never going to go the whole way in filling gaps.”

He explained that the $2 billion price tag on lockdown means many small businesses are not seeing any revenue.

“But it doesn’t just mean they’ve lost income, they’re actually going backwards,” he added.

Drawing attention to the plight of small businesses, Mr Hunter urged more attention be given to mental health, as many business owners fight to stay afloat.

He said: “We are getting a lot of very emotional people and a lot of people with mental health issues. I want to pause on that for a second, because we hear every day in the media about the health impact of this pandemic, and that is important, but what we’re not hearing about is that mental health impact.

“We have to balance that out in this conversation.”

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