23 Feb 2021

Business support package opens today, to give alert level help

6:32 am on 23 February 2021

From today, New Zealand businesses can apply for the government's latest Covid-19 support package.

Closeup shot of caucasian cashier hands. Seller using touch pad for accepting client customer payment. Small business of coffee shop cafeteria.

Photo: 123RF

Announced in December, the Resurgence Support Payment was introduced to boost businesses when there is an increase in alert levels.

Any business that has suffered a 30 percent drop in revenue for seven days is eligible for the payments.

Under the scheme, each eligible business will receive $1500 plus $400 per employee up to a total of 50 full-time employees, and totalling a maximum of $21,500 per business.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson says given the disruption businesses have faced during the latest Covid-19 outbreak, he's confident the scheme will be helpful.

"When we go up alert levels there are fixed costs that businesses incur. It might be a hospitality business that has to reorganise itself to be able to serve people at their tables and separate people out. Or it might be a business that's had to bring on extra staff to manage safety situations, or they may have lost revenue.

"We wanted to recognise that," he said.

But not all business owners are entirely thrilled by the scheme.

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said while it's positive that businesses will receive extra support, it's not enough.

"The effects on coming in and out of lockdown, it does have a significant impact on business for several weeks," she said.

Bidois expected large numbers of businesses to take up the government's offer, adding that alert level changes have hit the industry hard.

"Wherever you are, the level changes affect your business, and it also affects the consumer confidence as well," she said.

One hard-hit business is Bonz Cajun Kitchen in Auckland's Elliott Stables.

Restaurant owner Daniel said he's grateful for the scheme - but it won't be enough to offset the effects of three days in level 3 lockdown.

"We did open for takeaway for three days, from Monday to Wednesday, but I had only one customer for three days. That really affected our revenues," he said.

"We have staff to pay, rent to pay. I'm just trying to do my best to survive," the restaurant owner said.

But other business owners are simply pleased to have a helping hand.

The owner and executive chef of the Food Truck Garage in Auckland, Blake Loveridge acknowledges that the scheme won't fix everything but is happy to have more support.

"I don't think it's going to be saving everyone's skin, but it definitely is cool that we have a country that's still in a position to offer something. The fact that the government's still willing to help, you know, every little bit helps," Loveridge said.

Meanwhile, Robertson said it's important for business owners to look at all the support the government has given over the past year.

"A significant amount of financial resource has been given to businesses. This is a contribution. We're not claiming at any point that it's going to cover all the costs of a particular business, but we want to share the burden with businesses.

"This is a recognition that when we do change alert levels, even to level 2, that it can have an impact on people," he said.

The government has set aside hundreds of millions of dollars for the scheme.

Robertson said as long as a business is eligible, no one will miss out.

"There isn't a set budget. If people are eligible we will pay out for it. We have set aside a sum of $300 million.

"We don't believe we will need all of that, but if more people applied than that, we would find more money for it because it is based on meeting the criteria and being paid out, just as we did for the Wage Subsidy Scheme".

Businesses can apply for the scheme through myIR on the IRD website.

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