Australia

The government’s second coronavirus stimulus package has just been passed. What's in it for you?

More than a million Australians could be forced on to welfare as a result of the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Source: AAP

Workers, retirees and small businesses will get support under the government’s second round of stimulus measures.

The Parliament has passed a second round of stimulus measures worth $66 billion which is aimed at protecting workers and small businesses as they face inevitable income loss.

That brings the total economic rescue package to $189 billion, the equivalent of almost 10 per cent of Australia’s GDP. The Federal Government says more packages will be announced as needed. 

Who will receive support under the measures?

Access to superannuation

Individuals “in financial distress” from the impact of the pandemic will be able to access a limited amount of funds in their superannuation funds. 

Up to $10,000 can be accessed in the 2019-20 financial year, and up to $10,000 in the subsequent financial year.

Eligible persons include unemployed people and those on welfare payments including the jobseeker payment, parenting payment and the farm household allowance.

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Huge queues seen at Centrelink as COVID-19 provides additional support measures
Huge queues seen at Centrelink as COVID-19 provides additional support measures

Those made redundant after 1 January, 2020, or whose working hours have reduced by 20 per cent or more, can also access the funds.

Sole traders forced to suspend their business, or who see a 20 per cent or more reduction in turnover, are also eligible.

Applications can be made online via MyGov for the first round of up to $10,000 before 1 July, 2020. From that date, for another three months, applications can be made to access the second round of up to $10,000.

The amounts will be tax free.

Welfare recipients 

The second round of stimulus includes a coronavirus supplement, which will be paid to eligible recipients for the next six months at a rate of $550 per fortnight, on top of current welfare benefits.

The payment will start flowing from 27 April 2020.

This equates to a doubling of the current Newstart payment, which is now being called the jobseeker payment. The measure will cost $14.1 billion.

To facilitate the faster flow of payments, the Federal Government is waiving the asset test requirement and the waiting period to access the payment.

Centrelink has created an online quiz to help Australians find out what they are eligible to receive.

Sole traders or self-employed

Sole traders and the self-employed are also eligible to receive the coronavirus supplement and jobseeker payment.

Applicants will need to report to Centrelink and provide details of their reduced turnover or their decision to suspend trade.

Pensioners

Pensioners constitute half of those eligible for a $750 payment under the first round of economic stimulus measures announced by the Federal Government. From 31 March, 6.5 million lower-income Australians will be eligible to receive the one-off payment. The measure is set to cost the budget $4.76 billion.

The group includes: social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders.

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Video-calling robots to keep elderly connected during COVID-19
Video-calling robots to keep elderly connected during COVID-19

There is also a second $750 payment – announced in the second stimulus package – available to about 5 million social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders. This payment will be available from 13 July automatically to those eligible. See further details here.

The payments will be exempt from taxation.

Small business

To assist with cash flow, businesses with an annual turnover below $50 million and non-for-profit charities can access cash payments of up to $100,000.

The government hopes this will encourage businesses to keep staff on as the payments will be linked to staff wage tax withholdings.

The payments will be processed automatically by the Australian Tax Office based on the the business’s monthly or quarterly business activity statements.

From 28 April 2020, employers will be eligible to receive a payment of up to $50,000 to match 100 per cent of their salary and wages withheld.

The government is estimating the measure will benefit around 690,000 businesses employing around 7.8 million people, and around 30,000 not-for-profits.

The measure is estimated to cost $31.9 billion - an increase of $25.2 billion in support from the first package when the cash payment limit was $25,000 not $100,000.

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COVID-19 patient urges 'don't take any chances'
COVID-19 patient urges 'don't take any chances'

Loan guarantees - as part of the "coronavirus SME guarantee scheme" - are also being made available, in a measure expected to cost $40 billion.

Under the scheme, the Federal Government will guarantee 50 per cent of an eligible loan through participating banks for businesses affected by the coronavirus economic impacts. The maximum amount that can be borrowed will be $250,000 on terms up to three years.

The obligations of company directors under the Corporations Act 2001 will be relaxed for businesses dealing with the coronavirus fallout, affording temporary relief for directors from any personal liability for trading while insolvent.

Industry support

Certain sectors are receiving specific support, including the aviation industry, which has been allocated a $715 million package to provide cash flow support “through an unprecedented period of disruption to international and domestic air travel.”

A $1 billion coronavirus fund is also being set up to provide aid for areas affected by the coronavirus travel bans, including the domestic tourism industry.

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