Government tonight announced details of how businesses and workers can get access to support from the economic response package.
The three streams of support – business and wages subsidies, individual benefits and tax breaks – are being overseen by the Ministry of Financial and Economic Management.
Any workers who have been laid off since the start of this month, because of Covid-19, are entitled to the unemployment benefit. It starts from April 1 – and if they still can’t find work after four weeks, they will be placed on the Destitute Allowance.
For those still working, employers who have suffered a 30 per cent revenue decline can claim a $266 a week wage subsidy for those working 20-plus hours a week, or half that for part-timers working 5-19 hours.
Tonight, Henry Puna urged people to look after their anau, here and abroad. “Be kind and look out for each other,” he said. “You can do this, we can do this.”
He alluded to Te Marae Ora plans to support Cook Islanders in quarantine in New Zealand, seeking to return home. Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown has already signalled government will rent a hotel near Auckland airport for them.
It comes as the business and social sector welcome the stimulus package – but pleads for government to move quickly to make the payments available.
Fletcher Melvin, president of the Chamber of Commerce, said they had not expected the full $61 million package to come out in one go – this budget sets aside only $34.5 million. But they did hope the first payments would be available next week.
He was concerned at suggestions that the first payment might not be until April 16, in line with government payrolls dates. “We are worried about this, people would be hoping to get the money as soon as possible.
“It’s a stressful time for everybody involved, we are working extremely hard day and night to get as much relief to business and employees.”
Rebeka Buchanan, from counselling organisation Punanga Tautaru, welcomed the attempts to keep people in work – but said ultimately, government needed to secure families’ wellbeing.
“The package should be about health, cash flow but really about security. People will suffer in terms of food, so the government needs to think of putting money in food banks.
“Food is what we will need whether with or without a job.”
Access support package at mfem.gov.ck or covid19.gov.ck