24 Aug 2021

Grant Robertson: 'A strong public health response is still the best economic response'

4:53 pm on 24 August 2021

Finance Minister Grant Robertson says a strong public health response is still the best economic response.

Watch Robertson speaking about it here:

On support, Robertson says there's a wide range available:

  • The Leave Support Scheme, available for employers including the self-employed to help pay employees who need to self-isolate and cannot work from home. It pays a lump sum of $600 per week for full-time and $359 a week for part-time workers for up to two weeks.
  • The short term absence payment: For businesses including the self-employed to pay for workers who cannot work from home while they wait for a Covid-19 test. Pays the same as the Leave Support Scheme.
  • The Resurgence Support Payment offers any business or organisation which has experienced a 30 percent reduction in revenue or capital-raising ability over seven days due to alert levels. It pays $1500 per business plus $400 per employee up to a maximum of $21,500. Robertson says about 26,000 applications have been made since they opened this morning.
  • The Wage Subsidy Scheme, which has had 127,935 applications totalling over $484m already paid out to businesses since the scheme opened on Friday.

Robertson says the vast majority of applicants to the wage subsidy are sole traders or small businesses. He says over 72 percent have 19 or fewer employees.

"A strong public health response is still the best economic response," he says.

"The economy overall has been performing more strongly than when Covid reached our shores."

Robertson says the workers at the MIQ facilities have been those who have helped protect New Zealand and it is much appreciated by all New Zealanders.

He also says there is about $5 billion left in the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund, and on top of that there is more that has not yet been spent, including about $2.1bn that was not used in the small business cashflow scheme and another $1bn in other support schemes.

He says the $5bn is merely the amount already set aside for resurgence.

There is enough funding there to last the country for some time, he says, and the government has a good fiscal headroom which allows it to keep funding the things that need it.

Robertson says nothing about the lockdown changes employment law, and while the wage subsidy is there to support those who cannot be working, people should be paid for the hours that they're working.

Earlier, Robertson told RNZ there was enough money left in the Covid-19 Recovery Fund to handle a full month of lockdown before more borrowing may be needed.

The news comes as applications reopened this morning for Resurgence Support Payments for businesses - a payment of $1500 per business plus $400 per employee, up to $21,500 - offering another line of non-wage-related financial aid alongside the wage subsidy and the Small Business Cashflow Loan Scheme.

While the government would reconsider its financial settings if the lockdown continues for a significant length of time, Robertson signalled further sector-specific support like had been seen with the tourism industry was not likely at this point.

Meanwhile on vaccinations, Robertson says yesterday was the best day so far, with 63,333 vaccinations given.

"I genuinely want to thank all New Zealanders who are part of the vaccination programme."

He says it's an important step forward.

On case numbers, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says there are 41 new community cases, bringing the total for the outbreak to 148.

Of those new cases, 38 are in Auckland and three are in Wellington.

Read more about today's Covid-19 case numbers here

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