Coronavirus: Finance Minister working on 'Easter project' to help New Zealand businesses post-lockdown

The Finance Minister says the long weekend will give him time to work on an 'Easter project' designed to help New Zealand businesses adjust to life after the COVID-19 lockdown.

Speaking to Magic Talk's Peter Williams on Thursday morning, Grant Robertson refused to confirm nor deny the Government was lining up direct cash injections for businesses.

But he did promise to look at "support we provide at a firm level, whether or not we move to targeted support, and what support we provide to individuals".

"We're working through right now what will happen as we move from the wage subsidy, recognising that there's still a lot of pressure on businesses and restrictions," he said.

"My Easter project is to go through the work and thinking we've got on that, so that we can give people some certainty in the coming couple of weeks."

Last month, the Government unveiled a $12.1 billion COVID-19 economic support package, almost half of which covered immediate wage subsidies for businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

That package - representing 4 percent of New Zealand's GDP - allowed businesses that would otherwise have to close down or undertake redundancies to stay afloat without making major structural changes to their business.

But the Finance Minister acknowledges that wages aren't the only major cost businesses face, and he wants to address their other expenses in his post-lockdown financial aid package too.

"For a number of businesses, wages are hard on their cost structures - but so are rents; so is debt-servicing; so are the products they need to buy which, in many cases, the costs have gone up or they're harder to get," he told Magic Talk.

"We're working through that at quite a granular level now, [so we'll] be able to say what the next stage of this looks like as we emerge out of [alert] level 4."

And Robertson hopes to turn around business confidence, which has reached worrying lows. A survey of Auckland Business Chamber members on Wednesday revealed that 30 percent of them didn't believe they would survive the pandemic.

"That's obviously a number that reflects the uncertainty and stress that people are currently feeling," Robertson said. 

"I'd like to think, given the good progress we're making in reducing the number of new infections and the continued hope that we'll get out of level 4 after these four weeks, that those numbers will improve.

"It's the uncertainty that drives that, and I think our businesses are more resilient than that and we're certainly going to keep working with them to help them get through it and reduce that number down significantly."

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