Australian government extends wage subsidies to workers by six months

Sydney, Australia, Jul 21 (efe-epa).- The Australian government announced Tuesday that it will extend wage subsidies to some 3.5 million workers for another six months as a new COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne slows the country’s economic recovery plans.

The payment, which will be extended until March next year, will amount to a maximum of AU$ 1,200 ($843) per worker per fortnight, in addition to the AU$ 259 billion spent by the authorities on tax breaks and subsidies so far.

Australia, which had planned to completely reopen its economy after controlling the COVID-19 epidemic, has recorded 126 deaths and more than 12,000 infections, of which more than a quarter have been recorded since the beginning of the month in the city of Melbourne, which has been placed under a second lockdown for six weeks.

Sydney and the seaside town of Batemans Bay in New South Wales, which is the country’s most populous state and also the biggest contributor to the economy, have also registered an increase in local cases.

“One of the great challenges that all countries are facing in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and the recession that has been consequential to that, it has been that things change and they change quickly,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a press conference in Canberra.

At the end of March, the Australian government implemented an economic stimulus plan that included wage subsidies and aid in response to the COVID-19 crisis for a period of six months.

Morrison explained that he will extend his flagship JobKeeper wage subsidy program until March 2021, when he will re-review the situation, although he clarified that the payment will be reduced and have a stricter eligibility criteria.

This subsidy, which was A$1,500 per fortnight, will be reduced to A$1,200 for full-time workers and will be A$750 for those working less than 20 hours a week.

“Already just over AU$ 30 billion has been provided in support through the JobKeeper program to almost a million businesses – 960,000, thereabouts – supporting some 3.5 million employees,” Morrison said in the joint press conference with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

The additional cost to the government of extending JobKeeper by a further six months will be AU$ 16 billion, taking the total to AU$ 86 billion.

On the other hand, the Coronavirus Supplement aid of AU$ 550, which is also received by unemployment beneficiaries and students, among others, will extend until the end of the year but will be reduced to AU$ 250.

The Australian government has earmarked a total of AU$ 259 billion in tax support and relief in response to the COVID-19 crisis, which represents 13.3 percent of its annual GDP. EFE-EPA


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