Airline, fashion retailers, recruiters among bigger companies applying for COVID-19 wage subsidy

The COVID-19 wage subsidy is attracting claims from bigger companies as well as sole traders and small businesses, the latest data shows. 

At a press conference on Friday, Finance Minister Grant Robertson confirmed 242,600 applications had been approved and a total of $998 million had been paid under the reopened COVID-19 wage subsidy.

The biggest portion of applicants were sole traders and small businesses, Robertson said. Around 59 percent of employees covered by the subsidy were employed by businesses with less than 20 staff. 

"Some 2.5 percent of total applicants are companies with 1000 plus employees… that compares with 10 percent following the March 2020 lockdown," Robertson said.

But as Wednesday marks the third week of the strictest level 4 lockdown for Auckland, the portion of larger businesses claiming the subsidy could be set to rise.

On Monday, the Ministry of Social Development COVID-19 online employer search tool showed Air New Zealand claimed $8.59 million for 7218 staff members.

Other companies with over 100 staff that claimed for the August 2021 wage subsidy include retailers Barkers Clothing, K & K Fashions, Max Fashions, Overland Footwear, Postie Plus and Smith & Caughey.  

Several larger recruitment companies had also claimed for the subsidy, including Max People, OneStaff, Reliance Recruitment and Remarkable People. 

Metropolitan Glass and Glazing Limited received $1.080 million for 902 staff. 

Applications for the second two-week wage subsidy payment opened at 9am on Friday and will close just before midnight on September 16.

When claiming for the second wage subsidy, businesses make an online declaration that they're affected by the continuation of alert levels 3 and 4 from August 17.

As with the initial two-week wage subsidy, the business must be experiencing, or predict they will experience, at least a 40 percent decline in revenue as a result of the move in alert level.

Paid as a two-week lump sum, the amount of the wage subsidy is $600 per week for full-time workers (20 or more hours per week), and $359 for part-time workers (less than 20 hours per week).

Businesses that didn't apply for the first COVID-19 wage subsidy, or which applied the first subsidy and were still experiencing revenue loss, could apply for the second wage subsidy.

"The revenue test period for the second [wage subsidy] moves forward two weeks and covers the 14 consecutive days from August 31 to September 13," Robertson confirmed on Friday.

The Resurgence Support Payment, available through Inland Revenue, is available to help businesses meet fixed costs such as rent during alert level rises.

As at September 2, Inland Revenue had approved around 147,000 Resurgence Support Payment applications and had paid out approximately $454 million, Finance Minister Grant Robertson confirmed.

From September 9, a change to Resurgence Support Payment eligibility criteria allows those in business for at least one month before the increase in alert level on August 17, to apply (previously at least six months).

Other support available to businesses includes the Small Business Cashflow SchemeLeave Support Scheme and Short-Term Absence Payment.

In a bid to help small businesses, major banks waived fees on contactless debit payments until the end of October.