The Australian federal government has announced a stimulus package that, it says, will inject almost $18 billion into the economy with about $11 billion of that hitting our wallets before then end of this financial year. Many people are set to benefit including casual workers, retirees and small business owners.
The government is hoping the cash they spread out and other incentives they offer will give the economy a boost with spending and activity expected to fall as the coronavirus pandemic spreads. Here’s what the stimulus package will deliver.
$750 cash for many
The centrepiece of the government’s stimulus package is a benefit of up to $750 in cash for up to 6.5 million people on government benefits, including 2.4 million pensioners, the unemployed and those receiving family tax benefits.
That cash will hit bank accounts for eligible people from the end of this month.
Casual workers get faster access to assistance
If you’re a casual worker who loses hours because of the coronavirus outbreak, waiting times for a sickness allowance through the welfare system and the Newstart allowance have been waived, allowing those in casual roles to receive payments faster.
The sickness allowance is a means-tested payment of up to $604.70 a fortnight. As of March 20, it will be rolled into the jobseeker payment. You can apply if you are over 22 years old, have a job and can’t go to work as you are sick.
According to the ABC, receiving payments can still take time due to processing delays.
“A casual employee who would be impacted by coronavirus and for medical reasons would need to self-isolate, or, indeed, contracted the coronavirus and would not be able to work, they can access what is currently called the sickness payment,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
However, not all casual workers will need this. Woolworths says it will pay employees who miss regular shifts due to a Department of Health requirement to self-isolate, or are confirmed as having the virus. The Woolies’ policy also covers carers who have to stay home to look after children who are infected or in isolation. Telstra has a similar policy.
Apprentices are also given some protection with as many as 120,000 apprentices supported. Employers with apprentices on their books can receive support payments. They can receive up to $21,000 per apprentice ($7000 each quarter) in wage assistance to retain existing apprentices and trainees.
Small business operators
About 650,000 small and medium-sized employers, with turnover of up to $50 million will have access to grants of up to $25,000 to help them with any losses they may suffer as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition, the government has extended and expanded its tax write-off policy. Businesses with turnover of up to $500 million will be able to write off purchases of items worth up to $150,000, allowing them to not only buy more things but write off the cost of larger works like office fit outs in one tax year instead of going through the rigmarole of depreciation over multiple years. That offer is only for the current financial year, giving businesses little time to take advantage.
The Australian Tax Office has also come to the party, offering some extra help for businesses. In a statement, the ATO says they’re allowing businesses to defer BAS and PAYG payments by up to four months, shift to monthly reporting instead of quarterly so they can access GST credits and remitting interest on late payments incurred on or after 23 January 2020.
If you need to see a doctor but can’t get out, a new item has been added to Medicare, allowing doctors to conduct telepresence consultations using tools like FaceTime and Skype.
$1 billion of the stimulus package is going to a fund that will be used to prop up the tourism sector. Some of that will go towards financial support for the operators of places affected by the expected downturn in tourism that will flow from international travel bans and self-isolation. That will be supported with a bunch of fees and charges for national parks to be waived.