'A lifeline': COVID-19 Wage subsidy extension will help but more support needed - restaurant owner

The owners of Auckland-based restaurant Cazador are providing contactless takeaway coffees and deli foods under alert level 3.
The owners of Auckland-based restaurant Cazador are providing contactless takeaway coffees and deli foods under alert level 3. Photo credit: Supplied/EmilyRafteryphotography.

The owner of an Auckland restaurant says the Government's extended COVID-19 wage subsidy scheme is a "lifeline", but hospitality businesses need further support to recover.

It follows Monday's announcement the COVID-19 wage subsidy will be extended for two weeks, to help businesses pay their employees during alert level 3 and alert level 2 restrictions. 

Businesses with at least a 40 percent drop in revenue due to COVID-19 over 14 days between August 12 and September 10, compared to the similar period last year, can get the COVID-19 Resurgence Wage Subsidy.

Staying afloat offering contactless takeaway coffee and deli foods, Rebecca Smidt, owner of Dominion road-based Cazador restaurant, said going into alert level 3 for the second time was devastating.

"We were just catching up, and we're facing a mountain of debt which is the cost of preserving the family business that we love, and the jobs we offer our staff," she said.

To enable businesses to bounce back, they'll need a strong, committed team. The wage subsidy will help, but due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, more support is needed.

"The wage subsidy is a lifeline...but we hope the Government will consider other legislation to help businesses through what will inevitably be many years of recovery, [including] managing tax debt, interest on investment loans and reconsidering licensing regulations and restrictions," Smidt added.

"Our community is rallying around us, they're respectfully observing social distancing, and being ever patient as we operate under these circumstances. It's heartening to see."

Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Julie White told Newshub on Tuesday that after enduring two lockdowns, she's not sure extending the wage subsidy will be enough.

"The Government missed the mark because not everyone is affected equally - hospitality was affected harder and earlier," she said.

"We really think the Government needs to give targeted support moving forward and hospitality is one of those targeted industries."

The Resurgence Wage Subsidy is for a period of two weeks and is the same rate as previous COVID-19 wage subsidies: $585.80 for full-time workers and $350 for part-time workers.  Applications open from 1pm on August 21.

It is forecast to cost around $510 million and expected to cover 470,000 jobs.  The COVID-19 wage subsidy extension is open until September 1.