Todd Muller slams Government's Income Relief Payments as 'ill-defined and ill-directed'

New National Party leader Todd Muller has labelled the Government's COVID-19 Income Relief Payments "ill-defined and ill-directed".

The payments were announced on Monday to help those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Depending on whether someone is a part-time or full-time worker, they will receive either $250 or $490 per week for 12 weeks.

Muller believes the focus should be on businesses and how to keep them afloat to keep people in jobs "in the first place".

"We support supporting New Zealanders in a moment of significant need, but our concern with that announcement is it's ill-defined and ill-directed," he said on Monday during a press conference.

"What would've been better is a stronger focus on businesses to keep them in business... When we build together our economic plan, our focus will be on what do those small businesses actually need to be able to stay afloat. And I think that's where the focus should be."

In order to be eligible for the new payment, a person must've lost their job after March 1. Muller believes this has created a two-tier system where someone who lost their job in February will "get half the rate" on the Jobseeker benefit compared with someone who was made redundant in March.

"We're not opposed to the support, generally, of people who have obviously lost their jobs. But our belief is that rather than having a two-tiered system between those who had support prior to March now being quite different to those who lose their jobs after, there should be a greater focus on what those businesses need to stay afloat and keep those people in the jobs in the first place."

When asked if he agreed with the sentiment that people on Income Relief Payments need a larger per-week income than beneficiaries, he said they hold the view that "this should be ideally the same" and the two-tiers present a challenge.

"If you hold the view that the unemployment benefit is a certain level, but then for a period of time just for a certain group of people it should be a different payment, we think there's not a coherence to that."

Finance Minister Grant Robertson says although the Government can't save every job or business, it wants to make sure people are in the "best position" to respond, recover and rebuild.

"The Government's priority is making sure people are in work and able to find new work if their job has been impacted by COVID... This payment will help Kiwis as they make these transitions."

He says similar income schemes such as the ReStart package announced following the 2009 Global Financial Crisis and the Job Loss Cover following the Canterbury earthquakes have shown how they reduced the impact on people in a time of crisis.

"They show how important it is for people to have a safety net to support themselves and their families as they look for new work or retrain."