The Government is ready to tap into its $14 billion COVID-19 'rainy day fund' to bring back the Wage Subsidy Scheme if needed - but Grant Robertson hopes it won't come to that.
The Finance Minister says a second wave of coronavirus is "very unlikely", but if it were to occur he'd be willing to provide fresh subsidies for struggling businesses to keep their staff employed.
The Government has spent more than $13 billion on keeping Kiwis in jobs so far, but the Prime Minister earlier this month ruled out allowing the scheme to continue beyond September 1, when a targeted extension of the scheme runs out.
But Robertson told Magic Talk he's open to bringing it back if it's required, financed by the Government's $50 billion COVID Response and Recovery Fund announced in Budget 2020.
"The Prime Minister outlined the plan for what would happen in, God forbid, the event of a resurgence of the virus and we had to go back into some form of lockdown," he told host Peter Williams.
"Should that circumstance arrive, we're very well aware that if we effectively using [an alert] level 3 or 4-style approach and shutting businesses down, there is some obligation to us to be able to do things the way we did the first time with the wage subsidy.
"That's why we've put $14 billion aside from the $50 billion fund and said 'that is only for COVID relief and recovery'. We're not touching it in any other way before the election because we need to make sure we keep a buffer there in that very unlikely event."
However he said New Zealanders shouldn't rely on the wage subsidy extension continuing, saying that would only happen should the country "move back up alert levels".
Instead struggling Kiwis can apply for financial help through its more targeted support mechanisms, such as the extended small business loan scheme, the tourism recovery fund and mortgage holidays.
In an interview with Stuff this week, Robertson revealed the Government's mortgage deferral schemes could be extended beyond the initial six months on advice from the Reserve Bank.
"I think, judging from the conversations I've had with trading banks, that would be justified," he said.
Earlier in July, Jacinda Ardern announced the Government's COVID-19 re-emergence plan after New Zealand's business community pushed for an explanation of what it would take for the country to be placed into lockdown again.
She revealed the Government would initially look to provide a localised response, in an effort to shelter New Zealand from the economic impacts of a fresh outbreak of coronavirus.