NSW and federal governments to announce payments to businesses struggling in COVID-19 lockdown

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The NSW and federal governments will today announce payments to businesses as part of a financial assistance package for people struggling during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Businesses such as hairdressers, cinemas, gyms and beauty salons were forced to close two weeks ago after the Delta strain of the virus caused infection numbers to surge.

Many of those which were permitted to stay open, such as cafes and restaurants selling takeaway food, have been adversely impacted by stay-at-home orders.

The NSW government has spent the past 48 hours negotiating with its federal counterpart on a financial assistance package.

The package is intended to help with cash flow so that employers don’t have to lay off staff during this lockdown.

Less than a week ago, federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg publicly rejected the NSW government’s request to reinstate JobKeeper payments.

This prompted NSW to prepare its own wage subsidy program before the federal government decided to come to the table.

As part of the package, income support payments to individuals will also be increased to be more inline with JobKeeper payments that were available earlier in year.

The state government is expected to announce more financial support for businesses, on top of the assistance it’s providing in conjunction with the Commonwealth.

For Yanmiao Yu, who manages Chongqing Street Noodles in the city’s west, news of financial assistance came as a great relief.

Ten people usually work each day at the Burwood restaurant but since lockdown, it has only been able to afford to pay two.

“There’re no people here, business is very slow,” the 27-year-old said.

“If it continues … maybe we’ll close the shop and we’ll lose all the jobs.”

He said staff that usually worked full time were now making ends meet with a few shifts a week.

“They don’t have the opportunity to go out and find a job, a lot of shops are just closed,” Mr Yu said.

Businesses across Greater Sydney have been feeling the pain. They, like the state’s health authorities, do not know when stay-at-home orders will be lifted.

Advocacy group Business Western Sydney — formerly the Western Sydney Business Chamber — said many places may not survive the winter without intervention.

“The cost to the community picking up those pieces will be much greater,” said the group’s executive director David Borger.

In Western Sydney there are 150,000 small businesses, he said.

“Large organisations often have cash reserves and are able to plan for these black swan events,” Mr Borger said.

“Small businesses rarely do that — they’re the canary in the coal mine in the economy — and we need to make sure we’re looking after them.”

Businesses are not the only things that need support, according to the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS).

Last March, welfare payments temporarily increased from $280 to $550 a week. ACOSS said while reintroducing wage subsidies would be a good start, this was not enough.

“We definitely need a targeted JobKeeper reinstated for impacted industries and areas,” ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie said.

“Right now we have almost 400,000 people locked down trying to survive on income support payments that are below the poverty line, with many unable to get paid work.”

Premier Gladys Berejiklian yesterday said the initial assumptions were that stay-at-home orders would only last two weeks but she was now planning for the longer term.

“What we announce in the next few days will have a mind on supporting businesses (for) potentially a far longer period, depending on how long the lockdown lasts,” she said.

By state political reporter Ashleigh Raper and Tony Ibrahim (Original ABC Article)