Victorian JobKeeper claims tipped to hit 1.5 million

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  • Coronavirus pandemic

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By Noel Towell and Michael Fowler

August 7, 2020 — 7.15pm

About Victorian
Victorian or Victorians may refer to:

Victorian JobKeeper claims tipped to hit 1.5 million

About JobKeeper
The COVID-19 pandemic in Australia is part of the ongoing worldwide pandemic of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first confirmed case in Australia was identified on 25 January 2020, in Victoria, when a man who had returned from Wuhan, China, tested positive for the virus.Australian borders were closed to all non-residents on 20 March. Social distancing rules were imposed on 21 March, and state governments started to close ‘non-essential’ services. “Non-essential services” included social gathering venues such as pubs and clubs but unlike many other countries did not include most business operations such as construction, manufacturing and many retail categories.The number of new cases initially grew sharply, then levelled out at about 350 per day around 22 March, and started falling at the beginning of April to under 20 cases per day by the end of the month. A second wave of infections in Victoria instigated by a breakdown in hotel quarantine protocols commenced in late June, and is currently ongoing.As of 7 August 2020, Australia has reported 20,272 cases, 11,315 recoveries, and 266 deaths, with Victoria reporting the highest number of cases.

Premier Daniel Andrews says action on insecure work must be a feature of Victoria’s economic recovery from the COVID crisis, with 1.5 million Victorians expected to be reliant on the federal government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy by the end of September.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg predicted on Friday that nearly half of Victoria’s private sector workers would soon be reliant on the payment as he announced changes that will allow another 530,000 workers stood down from their jobs to claim JobKeeper.

Victorian JobKeeper claims tipped to hit 1.5 million

Matt Lanigan, owner of The Lucky Penny cafe in South Yarra, says without JobKeeper his business would have shut down.

Matt Lanigan, owner of The Lucky Penny cafe in South Yarra, says without JobKeeper his business would have shut down.Credit:Simon Schluter

With more than $13 billion of the additional $15.6 billion pledged to JobKeeper by the Commonwealth on Friday set to flow to Victorian workers, Mr Andrews said he was grateful to the Prime Minister and Mr Frydenberg for the additional support.

“I’ve always been very clear about how critical JobKeeper and the adjusted rate of JobSeeker [is] and I’m sure businesses, workers and certainly our government, me personally, we are very grateful for that,” the Premier said.

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Mr Andrews indicated that further economic stimulus announcements from the Victorian government were unlikely while the tough stage four restrictions made it “incredibly difficult” for government to “provide businesses with customers”.

The Premier said more stimulus would be announced in October’s budget and in the short term, the government’s focus would be on keeping businesses afloat through its “survival payments”.

But Mr Andrews, whose government has pledged to take action on working conditions in the gig economy, said insecure work had contributed to the pandemic.

“This issue of insecure work, this pandemic has exposed just how fragile the financial arrangements and employment arrangements of hundreds of thousands of Victorians are,” the Premier said.

“It’s no good for public health. It’s no good for much at all actually.”

South Yarra cafe owner Matt Lanigan said he had no doubts about the importance of JobKeeper after the wage-subsidy scheme saved him from being forced to permanently close his business.

Seven of the Lucky Penny cafe’s 13-strong team have been on JobKeeper since March but the remainder are ineligible for the payment because they are international students, meaning Mr Lanigan has had to significantly cut their hours.

“Without JobKeeper we’d be shut and the business would be closed. That’s the fact of it,” he said.

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“Our team is small but they all need to pay rent, put food on the table, and without JobKeeper they wouldn’t have been able to.”

While Mr Lanigan said his cafe would have continued to qualify for JobKeeper after September, he welcomed the reduced burden on businesses like his, who no longer need to show a downfall in revenue for the June quarter as well as the September quarter.

Mr Lanigan had plans to top up his employees’ JobKeeper payments when they drop to $1200 in September but Melbourne’s stage four restrictions, which restrict venues to takeaway and will be in place until at least September 13, will make that impossible.

“I think the expansion is great nationally but there should be extra support for Victorian businesses,” he said.

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Noel Towell
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Noel Towell is State Political Editor for The Age

Michael Fowler
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Michael is a state political reporter for The Age.

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