Rodney-based Labour MP Marja Lubeck has summarised a raft of government measures designed to help New Zealand weather the Covid-19 storm.
To begin with, new arrangements for those in essential work who require sick leave due to Covid-19 come into effect this week.
Ms Lubeck says the goal of the scheme is to ensure essential workers don’t feel pressured to come to work if they are vulnerable or sick.
The scheme covers essential workers who need to self-isolate because they're at higher risk or because they live with someone who is at higher risk. It also covers essential workers who need to self-isolate because they catch Covid-19 or come into contact with someone who has the virus.
The government will pay those taking sick leave at the same rate as those on the wage subsidy scheme. The scheme subsidises the wages of employees working for businesses whose operations have partially or entirely shut down.
The subsidy amounts to $585.80 for people working 20 hours or more per week and $350 for people working less than 20 hours per week. Businesses accessing the scheme must endeavour to top this up so that employees are paid at least 80 per cent of their pre-Covid-19 income.
Ms Lubeck says there is no longer a cap on the overall subsidy that a business can apply for.
“Every affected business in New Zealand can get help paying the wages of all of their workers, no matter how big or small they are,” she says.
Ms Lubeck summarised other government initiatives in relation to Covid-19 as follows:
The government has frozen all residential rent increases and prohibited no-cause terminations of rental agreements. Ms Lubeck says the government is considering options for commercial rent relief and plans to announce these soon.
Ms Lubeck says the Government will make changes to the Companies Act to help businesses facing insolvency. The temporary changes will allow businesses affected by Covid-19 to place existing debts into hibernation until they can start trading normally again.
The Government has announced a $27 million package to ensure that non-profits can continue to provide essential support to communities. The package will help non-profits assisting people with access to food and other essential goods, providing a place for people to live, and supporting the disabled and those in crisis.
In addition to $12 billion in wage subsidies, the government has allocated a further:
- $500 million in health spending
- $126 million in Covid-19 leave and self-isolation support
- $2.8 billion for an income support package for the most vulnerable, including a $25 per week benefit increase and doubling of the Winter Energy Payment for 2020
- $100 million for a redeployment package, to keep more New Zealanders in work
- $2.8 billion in business tax relief
- $600 million for aviation to protect New Zealand’s supply chains
- $6.25 billion for a Business Finance Guarantee scheme to help banks support firms to stay in business.
Ms Lubeck says these initiatives are not a one-off package, but are just the beginning.
“It does involve hard decisions, but we know the best protection for the economy is containing this virus,” she says.
“We will support Kiwi firms and families to make it through this shock so that they can bounce back on the other side.”