Government willing to extend wage subsidies if demand outstrips $5 billion

Newshub has learned the Government is willing to extend the budget for wage subsidies if demand outstrips the $5 billion they've set aside. 

Already more than 25,000 businesses have asked for help. 

When COVID-19 struck, it cut deep for New Zealand's forestry and logging industries, particularly in Tairawhiti, Gisborne.

Exports halted, the work dried up. Workers are gutted, saying it's "heart-breaking".

The Government knows. On Friday it swept in with $28 million dollars to redeploy the workforce to other projects like road work, conservation, hazardous tree removal and planting more trees for the Billion Trees Programme.

"Instead of sitting at home on the couch forestry workers are going to be doing real jobs and getting paid real money," said Minister for Economic Development Phil Twyford.

Businesses are flocking to Government for help - already more than 27,000 have applied for wage subsidies and there have been 1300 leave payment applications - covering self-isolation and those who have caught the virus. 

The Government couldn't give a total cost - but if all businesses receive the maximum payment then $4.1 billion of the $5.1 billion available will already be chewed up. 

Newshub understands that $5.1 billion was simply an estimate made in haste to get the package out the door and that the Finance Minister won't cut it off - instead will continue to top it up for whoever needs it.