Government has allocated just under $35m of the promised $61m stimulus package, in order to hold back money for when the crisis drags on.
Minister of Finance Mark Brown introduced the supplementary budget, the Appropriation Amendment Act 2020, after Parliament opened yesterday. “Our people are and will always be the first priority,” he said.
The Budget was passed with the support of all MPs.
It includes the new announcement of $1.5 million to small capital projects, to keep local contractors in employment.
The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development will distribute $28 million, including wage subsidies for three months for people whose work is affected by Covid-19, business grants and one-off benefit payments to those in difficult financial situations.
Another $5 million goes to Te Marae Ora, the health ministry, for communications, continuity of care, puna volunteer support and support of health workers.
“We realise a lot of people will be saying it doesn’t add up to the $61 million the Government said would be allocated,” Brown said. “A total of $56.7 million has been put in stabilisation accounts and will be used to help our small country through this Covid-19 crisis.”
The New Zealand Government has also committed $7 million to Cook Islands to help with the country’s economic response to the Covid-19 crisis.
Brown said they had to be smart with money and would allocate further funding in June.
From Monday March 30, Brown encouraged businesses and individuals to have their details ready for the application process, including bank account numbers, RMD numbers and employment details.
He emphasised that those struggling financially would be first on the list for help.
“Just as the taxpayers of this country are contributing to the economic response plan, we would expect the same from anyone who has made a lot of money here in the last six to 10 years,” he said.
The Ministry of Finance and Economic Management will manage the roll out of the funds and anyone with questions is asked to visit their website.
“None of us could’ve imagined the global upheaval that would be caused by Covid-19,” Brown said.
“But our strength is in community. We are entering tough times and I’m asking all Cook Islanders to look out for and support one another.”