JobKeeper payments fall as scheme extends

Matt Coughlan
(Australian Associated Press)

 

JobKeeper will be extended to a 12-month scheme but reduced in two stages as part of the federal government’s overhaul of coronavirus support.

Wage subsidies will be cut from $1500 to $1200 a fortnight for eligible full-time workers after September 27 and halved to $750 for those working less than 20 hours a week.

From January, JobKeeper will be further reduced to $1000 for full-time employees and $650 for part-time workers until March.

At both stages, businesses will have to requalify for the scheme by demonstrating a significant drop in revenue.

Companies with less than $1 billion in turnover will need a 30 per cent fall in revenue, while the threshold is 50 per cent for large companies.

The coronavirus supplement for JobSeeker will also be extended but drop from $550 a week to $250 at the end of September, and remain at that rate until the end of the year.

That will put the base rate of unemployment benefit at about $815 a fortnight, however, but recipients will be able to earn $300 without it affecting their payment.

The future of the permanent dole rate is expected to be revealed in the October 6 budget.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison indicated JobSeeker was unlikely to return to its pre-pandemic level of $565 a fortnight at the start of next year.

“I am leaning heavily into the notion that we would anticipate, based on what we know right now, that there obviously would need to be some continuation of the COVID supplement post-December,” he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

Mutual obligation requirements for people on JobSeeker will return from August 4, with the assets test to be reintroduced from the end of September.

Mr Morrison said Australians understood both programs were temporary.

“They know a current scheme that is burning cash, their cash, taxpayers’ cash to the tune of some $11 billion a month cannot go on forever,” the prime minister said.

Treasury estimates the number of JobKeeper recipients will fall to 1.4 million in the December quarter and one million in the March 2021 quarter.

Around 3.5 million workers have received wage subsidies designed to keep employees linked to employers during the pandemic.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said JobKeeper excluded some casual workers and migrants, while also paying 875,000 people more than they were earning before the crisis.

“Labor remains concerned that too many people are being left behind,” he told reporters on the NSW south coast.

He said the government should have taken the opportunity to announce a permanent increase in unemployment benefits.