Australian government urged to support Covid-affected businesses

People walk through a congested intersection in the city centre of Sydney, Australia

Australia’s Opposition Labor Party on Monday urged the federal government to support businesses that continue to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic with emergency economic backing.

Katy Gallagher, Labor’s finance spokesperson, said that the government was withdrawing economic support measures at a time when domestic border restrictions have been re-imposed as a result of recent coronavirus outbreaks, reports Xinhua news agency.

As of Monday, the Jobkeeper economic stimulus payment was cut from A$1,200 ($924) per fortnight to A$1,000 for workers who normally worked more than 20 hours per week but have been unable to because of the pandemic.

The payment for recipients who normally worked fewer than 20 hours per week was cut from A$750 to A$650.

Gallagher further said that the changes would hurt regional communities that are reliant on tourism, calling for the government to “urgently consider options to provide targeted support to hard-hit parts of the economy and ensure those who need financial support continue to receive it”.

“Many business owners are seeing holiday bookings cancelled or empty tables in their cafes and restaurants at what is usually their busiest time of the year,” she said.

“This is the second time in three months that the Morrison government has cut jobkeeper without a proper plan for jobs, despite the fact that 2.2 million Australians are looking for work or more work and the government expects another 90,000 will join the jobless queues by March.”

More than 1.6 million Australians were receiving the Jobkeeper payment in the December quarter, down from a peak of 3.6 million at the height of the pandemic when all recipients were paid A$1,500 per fortnight.

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