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Robertson: Businesses need to have suffered 40% revenue drop to qualify for new wage subsidy; Leave Support scheme simplified; New PREFU date set

Robertson: Businesses need to have suffered 40% revenue drop to qualify for new wage subsidy; Leave Support scheme simplified; New PREFU date set
Grant Robertson. Getty Images.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has announced businesses could be eligible for a two-week wage subsidy if Covid-19 has seen their revenue fall by 40%.

This 40% threshold is the same as the eight-week wage subsidy businesses have been able to apply for from June. The revenue decline for the first iteration of the wage subsidy was 30%.

Under the newest subsidy, the revenue drop needs to have occurred for at least 14 days between August 12 and September 10 compared to last year.

The rate of the subsidy will remain the same - $585.80 for full-timers and $350 for part-timers working less than 20 hours a week.

The subsidy is available nation-wide.

It’s worth noting that businesses still have until September 1 to apply for the eight-week subsidy launched in June. 

Treasury expects Auckland's move to Level 3 and the rest of the country's move to Level 2 to see an additional 460,000 workers be supported by this subsidy at a cost of $1.1 billion. 

As for the new subsidy, this is expected to support 470,000 workers at a cost of $510 million.

The cost of the new subsidy will be covered by un-spent funding set aside for the eight-week subsidy. This means the Government won't need to dip into the $14 billion recently ring-fenced to cover any future Covid-19 expenses.

Around $13 billion in wage subsidies have been paid out to date.

Robertson confirmed businesses can't receive the new subsidy while they are still receiving the eight-week one.

The Ministry of Social Development will start receiving applications for the new subsidy from Friday.

See the Work and Income website for more. 

More support for businesses granting workers sick leave

Separately, Robertson removed the revenue-drop and ‘negatively impacted’ tests for the Covid-19 Leave Support Scheme.

This means businesses with workers who have been told by health officials or their medical practitioner to self-isolate will receive the equivalent of the wage subsidy to help cover that person’s wages for the time they cannot be at work.

“Our focus is on doing everything we can to support our strong public health response. That means removing barriers to a person getting tested, including fears that a positive result would put their employment at risk or that they wouldn’t receive income while they couldn’t work because they had used up their sick leave," Robertson said.

New PREFU date set

Finally, and separately again, Robertson said Treasury's Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update (PREFU) will be published on September 16. It was due to be published on Thursday before the election date changed.

Wage subsidy sustainability considered

Coming back to the wage subsidy, Robertson said he made the new subsidy available nationwide, rather than just in Auckland, because Auckland is an integral part of the economy.

Tourism operators that had been expecting visitors from Auckland, companies that supply and trade with Auckland businesses, and hospitality and retail businesses around the country are all affected by the move up alert levels.

Robertson said it was also administratively difficult to confine the subsidy to Auckland while paying it out quickly.

Asked by media whether a subsidy could be targeted to a region in the future, Robertson said it was a “horses for courses” situation. He's asked officials to look into this. 

Officials are also considering how the suite of government support packages available - the Business Finance Guarantee Scheme, the Small Business Cashflow Loan Scheme and the Covid Income Relief Payment - could potentially be tweaked to “ensure support continues to be adaptable and flexible for alert level movements”.

Robertson said he wasn't considering broadening the Small Business Cashflow Loan Scheme to enable medium-sized businesses to get interest-free unsecured loans from the Crown.

Nor was he considering getting involved in a “Funding for Lending Programme” term lending facility for banks, which the Reserve Bank is designing to encourage banks to lend to keep inflation and employment buoyed. 

Reaction

National supported the introduction of the new two-week wage subsidy, but took the opportunity to again highlight the Government's failure to keep Covid-19 out of New Zealand.

"Ongoing subsidies can’t hide the heavy price Kiwis are paying for the Government’s border failures," its finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said.

ACT leader David Seymour supported the subsidy, but simultaneously said: “What we can’t have is the Government creating a false economy by endlessly propping up businesses and having the threat of lockdowns looming over us."

Seymour, who is campaigning on major public sector spending cuts, also said investing in public health measures to keep the virus out of the community would've been "cheaper" than this latest round of wage subsidies.

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49 Comments

18
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Extending the mortgage deferral scheme until March 2021. Hallelujah sing the bankers!

17
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Extend and pretend. Bad debts! What bad debts? It’s a happy holiday for all... let’s just stick em all on the market and see what happens to our armour plated housing bubble.

BB why would the banks be happy about the Mortgage deferral extension extension?

14
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An influx of properties going up sale at once which would decrease the prices and put the banks at risk.
Kick the can further down the road and hope for good news.

An understandable reason but don't you think the problem will just be bigger 6 months later?

Yes it will! Probably time to jump ship if you know anyone who is over-leveraged.

So I re-pose my original question: why would the banks be happy about the Mortgage deferral extension? "

It's now or later. With the later option there is hope that there is a vaccine, it will better to be pushed out after the election, so Labour will be able to let the money flow more freely.

And in the meantime they can work on Orr to come up with a new strategy to ensure the rest of the economy pays to help keep property prices high! The ponzi is continuing to grow. My view a managed retreat would be less damaging than a crash. But their view seems to be any retreat/crash is just tooo bad to consider. That will happen inspite of them.

13
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Compound interest. The extra interest income for the bank with customers having their loans for longer.

@Yvil. Because they don’t have to declare them as impaired loans.

12
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Essentially we’re now introducing mortgage welfare for the mathematically stupid!

Agreed but the point I'm making is that it's not "good for the banks", banks don't want to have bad loans and mortgagee sales

Yes, it only becomes a bad loan once they acknowledge it as one, until then all is good. The banks are now not so much watching the customers, but watching each other.

Banks now have an additional time window to clean house.

Or...(no pun) they will get this deferral for ever. Now that its classified as not a "bad loan" banks dont have to hold more of their own capital, aka risk for their poor lending practices.

I'm picking this is just for the election, and Labour will let gravity occur once they rule alone. All indicators are that prices should decline but they are not. With deposit return being worth nothing, what do you invest in?. People without any creativity are buying houses.

I wonder if they were going to do this anyway. It kicks the can down the road into the future.

Anyone can easily guess going forward with property market....

19
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They are going to send us all broke whilst they prioritise maintaining the property and asset bubble. To hell with the young and non asset owners (btw I’m neither but recognise the unfairness of this bull dust).

Huh what do the boomers care? Just extend and pretend as the young can pick up the tab. The party will go on..it has too!

A sprinkle of Covid should fix that.

While home ownership rates are at historic lows and NZ continues to be a low wage economy - subsidies paid to workers and beneficiaries will just be transferred to asset owners [landlords] via rents.

This miss-allocation of capital will add to GDP but as it produces nothing, Kiwi's standards of living will decline. Our dollar may also lose value .. which is really a hidden tax, which obviously impacts non-assets owners the most. Drug use will rise.

New Zealand has a rentier class, many of whom complain about any leg-up for younger generations but will happily take government handouts, accommodation supplements, cry out for commercial rent relief, commit white-collar-crime .. all while (depending on age) collecting NZ Super.

This is a poor aspect of how NZ is run. It's clearly become a continuous situation for those disadvantaged and in the know. How long before this knowledge, or at least a greater understanding is mainstreamed?

There are legal implications too. The Electoral Commission could start to get involved where political parties misrepresent the National Debt as unable to be forgiven and the process of money/credit creation. To garner votes through fake/misleading financial, election advertising surely won't continue to get a free pass.

Comparing household spending to government spending for example is a misrepresentation as governments create money when they spend and receive taxes. Also to claim younger generation will be burdened by government debt denominated in NZD is pushing it.

More buffer for banks and speculators. Not unexpected for election year as not doing anything is not going to win any votes. Rubber hit the road going into winter, which is always a great time to sell a house.

Why it's it "always a great time to sell a house in winter"?

Worst time to sell I thought

The RBNZ is trying to postpone the flood.

It's something you hear a lot in Wellington, at least. The idea is there's so few listings during that period, that house hunters will have to contend with more people. Plus if you're confident to list in winter, it shows the house is likely dry and warm (something that's rare in Wellington). That's the idea anyway.

I suspect there is an implied "/sarc" on the end.

Let’s hope the rules have been tightened so it’s one subsidy per individual - not multiple due to owners having a shareholding or directorship in multiple small businesses (on top of the Nat super they are getting).

The subsidy is per employee of a company and you have to supply their IRD numbers.
It's also for company owners who also need to supply their IRD numbers, if an individual owns multiple companies which meet the criteria of a 40% drop in income, they qualify for the subsidy fo each company

It’s mental. I’ve heard of individuals getting multiple payments ( and for some also on top of their national super). This is a wage subsidy, it uses the legislation that allows employees to get a subsidy for a new worker - so should be one per person max.

2 weeks wage subsidy assuming that panademic will be controlled in 2 weeks but will it ?

And how many lockdowns will we have to endure over the next few years, Im picking quite a few. Can they just chuck and extra couple of Billion at it each time???

Its weird how they talk like once we get over this we are in the clear, this Pandemic is just starting to stretch its legs globally, we all better be prepared for the long haul...

I agree, everyone including the govt is treating this as a short term thing. It may turn into a marathon.

Labour is always going to play it safe for the lower income earners, money comes second.

14
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get out the pots and pans ... we've got some books to cook

10
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More Money More Defferal...Not The End but ....more stimulus still to come.

10
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In the future our armies won't be going to war for king and country they will be going to war for the housing market because it is obviously the only thing that seems to matter anymore. Nothing else matters, including the economy.

When they blow the whistle - FHB's are first wave out of the trench

The subsidy scheme is a bit of a gamble really. Recent case law has stipulated that employees are entitled to full pay in the event a business has to close due to level 3 & 4 restrictions. This means a business may end up paying a lot more in wages than it receives in subsidy if their is another lockdown.

"Recent case law"
Can you elaborate please?

One size does not fit all in this scenario

Raggett v Eastern Bays Hospice Trust t/a Dove Hospice

Note everything Grant Robertson said in March about "employers should make their best efforts to pay 80% but failing that at least pass on the subsidy" has been ruled illegal. Employees are entitled to full pay if a business is shut on account of level 3 or 4 lockdown. As under the law they are considered fit, able & willing to work even though they obviously can't work because of lockdown.

I breezed over it, but to me it appears Dove failed in consultation with employees. It appears to me, If they had done this effectively and obtained agreement for a cut in wages, or other changes to employment agreement where is the problem?

Ok, so the employees disagree with wage cuts. Then start redundancy process.....

Business owners only have a finite number of tools to use.

"Ok, so the employees disagree with wage cuts. Then start redundancy process....."

But you can't do this if you take the subsidy, one of the conditions of receiving the subsidy is you agree that the employee for whom the subsidy is taken is not be made redundant. Sure you are all required to to have "good faith" negotiations however at the end of the day the employee can say "pay me in full" or its a personal grievance. So effectively taking the subsidy stacks all the chips in the employees favour for the period of the subsidy. Employers can't use the best tool they have redundancy.

I mean realistically it is still probably a good gamble to take the subsidy, however if we go level 4 in the next few weeks some employers are going to get their fingers burnt from taking the subsidy. Especially ones that have to deal with unions.

Pay back to Govt the subsidy portions that cannot be used, as employees are not employed anymore. i.e. for employees that an agreement couldn't be reached and redundancy was only option left on table.

Unless the subsidy is like some form of options sapping drug, that means no matter what, if you take the subsidy you have tied yourself and crew to going down with the ship due to unforeseen circumstances, should they arise.

When is Debt Relief/Debt Forgiving coming ? That is the key along with Helicopter Money.
Otherwise, we are screwed.

Why should debt be forgiven?

It has been done to sovereign nations and to certain groups like farmers in some countries. All part of banking, lending and government doing something to keep things going without creating much disruption.