How businesses could get $400 per full-time worker if COVID-19 lockdown is extended in New Zealand

Businesses could get $400 per worker up to a total of 50 full-time employees if Auckland's lockdown is extended, under legislation being rushed through Parliament. 

The resurgence support payment for businesses affected by COVID-19 was announced by the Government in December, as a more permanent financial compensation scheme, to be activated in the wake of alert level changes. 

The scheme kicks in if New Zealand is shifted to alert level 2 or above for a week or more. Businesses can access it if they experience a 30 percent drop in revenue over a seven-day period, and they get a base payment of $1500. 

When the scheme was first announced, businesses had to show a revenue drop over 14 days, but Finance Minister Grant Robertson says the Government decided to reduce it to seven, so the law needs to be changed in time for a possible lockdown extension. 

"This payment recognises that some businesses face one-off costs or impacts to cash-flow when we step up an alert level to follow public health advice," Robertson said on Tuesday. 

"The payment is structured to provide most support to smaller firms who are most likely to face cash-flow issues but will be available to all businesses and sole traders.

"A decision on whether this support will come into effect will be made if there is an extension to the 72-hour increase in alert levels announced on Sunday night. If it does come into effect it will cover the initial 72-hour alert level rise as well." 

That means if the lockdown is extended, the payment will be retrospective - businesses will be compensated for their losses over the last two days, including businesses outside of Auckland that rely on the city for income. 

The changes to the scheme are being rushed through Parliament on Tuesday under urgency. 

The scheme sits alongside the Government's other support packages, including the new short-term absence payment which provides financial support for businesses with workers who need to stay at home while awaiting a COVID-19 test result. 

It's a one-off payment of $350 to employers to pay workers who need to stay home while awaiting a test or while someone who is their dependent is doing so. 

The Government's leave support scheme helps businesses pay workers told to self-isolate because of COVID-19. It's paid as a lump sum and covers two weeks per employee at the rates of $585.80 for those working 20 hours or more a week and $350 for those working less than 20 hours a week.

The wage subsidy scheme will also be available nationally when there's a regional or national move to alert levels 3 or 4, for a period of seven days.

The support would be provided in two weekly payments for the duration of the alert level period, rounded to the nearest fortnight. The wage subsidy scheme has so far paid out more than $14 billion to protect 1.8 million jobs.