COVID-19: Next wage subsidy scheme may not be limited to Auckland

Newshub understands the Government's next COVID-19 wage subsidy scheme could go further than just Auckland, since the economic impacts of shutting down the city could be felt across the country.

It comes as there's a community outbreak of the virus in Auckland and the city is in alert level 3 restrictions, while the rest of the country is level 2. That means many places are forced to shut, including retail and hospitality businesses.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson put $14 billion of the Government's COVID-19 fund aside in July in case there was a second wave of the virus.

He says the current community outbreak has put "a lot of strain" on businesses, and he is receiving advice on how he can support those in need in case alert level restrictions are extended.

The first round of the wage subsidy announced in March saw the Government pay up to $585 a week per full time employee and $350 a week for part timers. It was available to businesses that saw a 30 percent drop in revenue.

"[We are] building on what people know, building on what's worked. I think my instincts are that is the best thing for us to look at," Robertson says.

The first subsidy was initially available for 12 weeks, but it was extended. The total bill is $13 billion so far. Auckland accounts for just over one-third of New Zealand's economy - and a lot of that subsidy bill.

But Robertson is hinting this might not run as long

"If we do need to extend these restrictions, our hope is that it won't be for very long because we are getting on top of this single cluster."

The decision on whether alert level restrictions are extended will be made on Friday evening, and Auckland business owner Paul Foster-Nesbit wants the Government to have support ready to go.

"Especially the wage subsidies. If they can act, act quickly," he says.

The last lockdown was tough for Foster-Nesbit after his landlord tried to up the rent of his business, Oblique Hair Spa, by 15 percent. Then he spent $50,000 doing up the location and business started flocking in.

"We're only just back on our feet, only just starting to pay our bills," he says, and then the second lockdown hit.

Now he can't open, and he's worried about the impact an extension of alert level 3 would have on his business. 

"Anything more than a couple of weeks we would be in dire straits."