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More cash for Sydney workers and businesses amid extended COVID-19 lockdown

More money will be handed to people who have lost work and cash grants will be delivered to businesses struggling in Sydney’s extended COVID-19 lockdown.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the additional support measures on Tuesday after finalising the details of the deal with the NSW government.

The COVID-19 disaster payment for workers will be increased from $500 to $600 each week if a person has lost 20 or more hours from next week.

People who have lost between eight and 20 hours will have payments increased from $325 to $375 each week.

Mr Morrison said the temporary measures were aimed at delivering support as quickly as possible.

“You don’t have to have lost your job, you don’t have to have left your employer. It doesn’t matter who your employer is. If you have lost those hours, you can access that payment right now,” he told reporters.

The COVID-19 disaster payment will also be made a recurring payment via Services Australia for as long as restrictions remain in place.

The payments will begin to flow from 16 July for the initial four local government areas to go into lockdown – Woollahra, Waverley, Randwick and the City of Sydney – and for the rest of the Greater Sydney region from 19 July.

‘Gives us the freedom’
The payments are designed to keep workers who have lost hours connected to their employer, in a similar vein to the previous JobKeeper model.

“This is a next level of partnership that’s necessary to ensure the sacrifices that have been made across Greater Sydney and across New South Wales are going to get the results that we’re looking for,” Mr Morrison said.

NSW reported 89 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday with the state’s Premier Gladys Berejiklian declaring there would be no end to lockdown restrictions until cases get to “zero or close to zero.”

Ms Berejiklian said the economic support would help efforts to encourage NSW residents to comply with health restrictions.

“It gives us the freedom to do what we need on the health side by asking everybody to respect the advice that we’re providing,” she told reporters.

Aid for businesses, sole traders and not-for-profits
More support for small to medium businesses will also be introduced under a 50/50 cost sharing arrangement between the Commonwealth and NSW.

From week four of the lockdown, businesses who have lost at least 30 per cent of their revenue will be eligible for the additional support via Service NSW.

These businesses will be able to access 40 per cent of their NSW payroll payments, through payments equating to a minimum of $1500 and a maximum of $10,000 per week.

The new small to medium business support payment will be available to NSW businesses, including not for profits, with an annual turnover between $75,000 and $50 million.

To receive the payment, business will be required to maintain their full time, part time and long term casual staffing level as of 13 July.

Eligible entities, which includes not-for-profits, will receive payments of between $1,500 and $10,000 per week based on the level of their payroll

For non-employing businesses, such as sole traders, the payment will be set at $1,000 per week.

The new arrangements would also apply to other states and territories who face extended lockdown restrictions.

Employer groups say aid provides ‘best chance to rebound’
Employer groups welcomed the funding and said they hope to have quick access to the aid.

“What is crucial now is for the support money to start flowing as quickly as possible – the Government has assured business applications will open later this month with the money to be paid days after that,” said Daniel Hunter, chief executive of the state’s peak business organisation, Business NSW.

He said the impact on regional businesses must also not be forgotten.

“The impact the lockdown has had on the mental health of business owners has been heartbreaking to see, as many business owners have closed the doors, unlikely to ever reopen.

“This support will give business owners the opportunity to retain their staff and give them the best chance to rebound their operations when the lockdown finishes.”

The Ai Group said the package would also help revive the economy.

“Insulating those worst affected by longer lockdowns will not only help put a cap on the impacts on individuals and businesses, it will help maintain the overall health of the economy,” Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox said.

The Australian Chamer of Commerce and Industry said the package is a “very timely lifeline to thousands of businesses”.

“Importantly, to access this support businesses are required to maintain their headcount, which offers security for workers and will enable businesses to quickly re-establish their workforce and get back to work immediately when the lockdown ends.”