22 May 2020

Finance Minister Grant Robertson on govt's response to Covid-19

12:48 pm on 22 May 2020

Finance Minister Grant Robertson gave an update on economic figures during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Missed the briefing? Watch it here:

A $50bn rescue fund was at the centre of last week's 'once in a generation Budget' and included and extension of the wage subsidy scheme to the hardest hit businesses, free trades training, and a state house building programme.

Today ministers detailed spending of the more than $36m allocated in March to help keep people working.

It includes about $15 million for roading projects in the Hawke's Bay, $9.51m for roading in Northland and $1.12m for Rotorua. Queenstown Lakes receives $1.4m to support workers into new jobs after widespread redundancies.

Robertson said the take up of the small business cashflow scheme has been strong with 49,360 applications received.

He said $824m has been distributed under the scheme already.

He also said he is seeing increased economic activity in level 2.

Compared to this time last year, economic activity is down 11 percent.

Electricity demand is back at pre-lockdown levels.

There has been an increase in the number of people going onto jobseeker support with 1606 people going onto it last week, Robertson said.

"While this remains distressing for those individuals involved, I would note that the rate of increase has continued to slow over the last few weeks."

There are now 43,000 more people on the jobseeker support benefit since 20 March.

Robertson added that number of special needs and food grants have decreased in the past week.

$10.9bn has been paid out in the wage subsidy scheme and Robertson said the government is looking at other ways to support households and businesses coming out of the lockdown.

During the briefing, Robertson was asked about last night's One NEWS Colmar Brunton poll and how much of that success was down to the policies the government had enacted during the lockdown.

"I think the main thing here is the success the whole country has had in terms of getting on top of the virus and that has been a genuine team effort of five million New Zealanders. I think the public's very clear about the focus that the government has, that we are focussed on both protecting lives and livelihoods, that we've got a focus on growing jobs and keeping people in jobs, and on our economic recovery and rebuild."

"I also think that the strong and clear leadership that the prime minister's shown has been a significant factor in people's confidence as well. So I'd put all those factors together and say that as a country we're doing well and I know that the polls have shown a strong endorsement for the approach taken with the lockdown ... that's something all New Zealanders have bought into and I think those polls are a reflection of that."

Putting his sports minister hat on, Robertson was asked how the government can guarantee that events such as the America's Cup, Women's Cricket World Cup and Women's Rugby World Cup will be able to be played in New Zealand given current border restrictions and the general Covid-19 outlook.

"We're working towards all of those events taking place and I think that's the best way to do it," he said.

"All of the tournaments and the regatta (America's Cup) organisers have contingency plans in place and obviously we all work towards the goal of them happening, if we have to make changes to formats or the way they're organised then we will do that. Nobody can make any guarantees when it comes to Covid-19, we all know that, the full impact is still being felt but the planning and preparation for those events continues."

He added the government is 100 percent committed to the women's Cricket World Cup and Rugby World Cup happening given the financial support it is providing.

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