Analysis: Government's $50bn COVID-19 fund 15 times what would normally be spent in a single Budget

The Government's $50 billion COVID-19 relief fund is about 15 times what would normally be spent in a Budget, and decisions were still being made about the fund as recently as Monday.

Thursday's Budget was smashed together at turbo speeds - the original torn up and replaced with one that focussed on the COVID-19 crisis. Debt is set to skyrocket to $200 billion in the next four years - 53.6 percent of GDP.

Budget 2020 was unveiled on the same day New Zealanders woke up to alert level 2, with businesses grinding back into action after what felt like a very long hibernation.

But it's too late for some business owners, such as brothers Lorenzo and Leonard, who will not reopen their popular namesake Wellington restaurant 'The Bresolin'.

"The subsidy only supports wages and we've still got rent, we've still got all the bills to pay," Lorenzo told Newshub.

To try and prevent more businesses closing and more jobs going under, the Government is unleashing a fiscal bazooka - the likes of which we've never seen.

"This has been the most extraordinary Budget to put together," Finance Minister Grant Robertson said on Thursday, unveiling his 'Rebuilding Together' Budget.

Critically the $50 billion includes an extension to the wage subsidy scheme, desperately desired by businesses like Flagmakers - its flag even flies above the Prime Minister's office.

"I think it's great," said owner Dave Moginie. "I think the wage subsidy continuing is something that's going to secure employment for our staff for that period of time."

It means he can save his 18 staff.

The new $4 billion dollar subsidy works like this: From June 10 if businesses lose 50 percent over a month on the year prior, they get $585 a week per employee for eight weeks.

It's targeted to those hit hardest after the lockdown and further extensions are possible.

"It will be a rolling maul of initiatives," Robertson explained. "Our economic response to COVID-19 has to happen every day - not just on Budget Day."

More money is coming for music and the arts, but there's no targeted COVID-19 package for hospitality and there won't be.

The subsidy helps venues like Whammy Bar in Auckland who are against the wall.

"We've gone from having at least five shows a week to literally closing doors and not knowing when we can open them again," co-owner Lucy Macrae told Newshub.

Co-owner Tom Anderson added, "That's across the industry."

As expected, tourism did get specific support, but not the kind of support the bulldozed industry needs: $400 million for a flashy marketing campaign, a couple of working groups and very little details.

"The detail really is what we're looking for, so it gives us some confidence that our planning is correct," said Mark Quickfall, owner of Totally Tourism. "The details are really important."

The COVID-19 package includes a whopping $20 billion yet to be spent.

Newshub asked the Finance Minister if it's a pre-election slush fund.

He replied, "That spending is available for us as we need it."

Robertson signalled that need could be for fiscal stimulus likely targeted at lower-income families.

He also confirmed the prospect of tax changes or tax cuts are gone, "There is no significant tax reform in this Budget and there won't be for this term of government."

The Government's term only has four months left and speeches in Parliament on Thursday provided a reminder that the election is just around the corner.

"The Government risks making this economic disaster worse than it needs to be," Opposition leader Simon Bridges in a speech slating the Government for increasing debt.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern justified the spending by highlighting the unprecedented situation the country finds itself in.

"I'm afraid the leader of the Opposition has assumed it's business as usual."