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Small and medium-sized businesses in New South Wales will be eligible for cash payments of up to $10,000, and lockdown-impacted workers will receive between $375 and $600 per week in an escalation of support measures as COVID-19 lockdowns continue.

The federal government says the support measures will be the new national template for lockdowns, according to a report by The Australian Financial Review. The measures, which will cost the NSW and federal governments about $5 billion combined, were unveiled on Tuesday ahead of an announcement by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian that the Greater Sydney lockdown will enter a fourth week – and most likely continue after that – rather than being lifted Friday.

Berejiklian said the relief package should make the lockdown work more effectively, AFR reported.

“What this does is give us peace of mind and a breather for everybody in that when you provide that economic support for individuals and businesses, it gives us the freedom to do what we need on the health side by asking everybody to respect the advice we’re providing but also having that confidence not to leave the house unless you absolutely have to.”

The new template arrives a little more than a month after the states and Commonwealth agreed on a plan in which the federal government would pay for income support and the states would fund business cash flow payments, AFR reported. However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said payments for both individuals and businesses needed to be increased due to the severity of the situation in Sydney.

Read more: Lockdown likely to drag on

“The NSW outbreak has proved to be more severe, more dangerous, and it’s in the national interest that we now put in place an upgraded set of arrangements for co-operation with the states and territories that will first be put in place here with NSW when lockdowns enter into more protracted situations,” Morrison said.

The Victorian government complained that the federal government was only taking strong action now that Sydney was affected.

“Victorians are rightly sick and tired of having to beg for every scrap of support from the federal government,” it said in a statement. “It shouldn’t take a crisis in Sydney for the prime minister to take action, but we are seeing the same double standard time and time again. His job is not to be the prime minister for NSW. We had to shame the federal government into doing their job and providing income support for Victorian workers when we battled the delta strain earlier this year. Their position at the time was a disgrace.”

The new measures will apply from the fourth week of a lockdown onwards, according to AFR. The federal payments will last only until the lockdown ends or when the lockdown area no longer meets the Commonwealth definition of a COVID-19 hotspot.

Businesses with turnovers between $75,000 and $50 million will receive 40% of their state payroll payments each week, at a minimum of $1,500 and capped at $10,000. To be eligible, businesses must demonstrate a 30% drop in turnover compared to the equivalent period in 2019, and must not cut staff, AFR reported. They must retain their full-time, part-time and long-term casual staffing levels as of July 13.

Eligible sole traders will receive $1,000 per week.

For adversely impacted workers, the weekly COVID-19 Disaster Payment announced during the Melbourne lockdown will rise. The payment will go from $325 to $375 for a person who lost between eight and 20 hours of work per week, and from $500 to $600 for someone who lost 20 hours or more. A person can still receive the payment while working, as long as their hours have been reduced by the required amount, AFR reported.

The NSW government will fund the payments for people outside a federal government-designated COVID-19 hotspot.

The federal and NSW governments also co-funded a new $17.4 million mental health support package, and the NSW government enhanced its system of business cash grants, enacted eviction protection, and offered payroll tax waivers and exemptions, according to AFR.

The Labor Party said the package was too little, too late.

“After leaving businesses and workers in limbo for the past two weeks scrambling to work out a plan, what Scott Morrison has announced is not enough to give businesses any security and does not provide support for those who have already lost their job,” said shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers.

Business groups, however, were generally supportive of the measures, AFR reported.

Ryan SmithRyan Smith is currently an executive editor at Key Media, where he started as a journalist in 2013. He has since he worked his way up to managing editor and is now an executive editor. He edits content for several B2B publications across the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. He also writes feature content for trade publications for the insurance and mortgage industries.
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