By Julie Owens

03 August 2021

Last week Parramatta joined a list of eight local government areas living under the toughest restrictions seen in NSW since the beginning of the pandemic.

Lockdown was extended, the rules changed twice and the COVID-19 Disaster Payment changed for the third time.

Two weeks after announcing extra support for businesses, the NSW Government finally released eligibility criteria for JobSaver and opened applications. Then they changed the criteria and how much you can claim.

Confused? You’re not alone. My office has been inundated with calls and emails from people who are struggling to make sense of the changes.

We can always help when the question is about masks or where you can go shopping – but there are no easy answers for businesses and workers falling through the cracks in the support package.

One local business owner who has lost all her income contacted me after finding out that she would not be allowed to claim JobSaver or the business support grant.

She’s ineligible because she claimed the COVID-19 Disaster Payment before these business payments were announced. She thinks, quite reasonably, that this is unfair, and fears that it will spell disaster for her business.

Businesses that are eligible for JobSaver face a complicated application process to claim 40% of their payroll up to $100,000 per week – an increase from a previous limit of $10,000.

When I talk to business owners they tell me what they really need is JobKeeper. They’re joined by Labor, unions and the NSW Treasurer, who are all calling on the Morrison Government to reinstate the payment.

So far Scott Morrison has refused to bring back JobKeeper, saying it wouldn’t be right because it was the solution to “last year’s problem.”

I think most of us living in the middle of Sydney’s toughest lockdown would agree that “last year’s problem” never really went away. Thanks to our leaky hotel quarantine system and the slowest vaccine rollout in the developed world, it’s worse than ever.

The path out of lockdown is clear - we need the Morrison Government to start treating the vaccine rollout like a race and quarantine as a national responsibility. In the meantime they need to bring back JobKeeper so businesses and workers can make it to the other side, and there’s a way to do it that won’t cost the Budget a cent.

Last year the government paid $4.6 billion in JobKeeper to businesses that actually increased their turnover in 2020. If they finally took action to claim it back, they could pay for three months of properly run JobKeeper for the whole of NSW. I think that’s a pretty good deal.