As Australia’s recorded cases of coronavirus reach 140, including three deaths, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has unveiled a $17.6 billion stimulus package, including one-off $750 payments to certain households, including pensioners.
The prime minister said the coronavirus will have serious impacts on Australia’s economy. “It is a health crisis with very significant economic impacts,” he told a press conference in Canberra this morning.
The multi-billion-dollar package is the equivalent of 1.2 per cent of GDP. “This is a significant investment,” the prime minister said.
2.4 million pensioners to receive payment
The government’s one-off $750 payments will be available to those on Newstart, the disability or carers pension, the youth allowance, veterans, those who receive family tax benefits, holders of Commonwealth health cards, and age pensioners.
The payment will go to 2.4 million age pensioners.
“The one-off payment will flow automatically from 31 March and will provide additional income to many Australians that will be spent across Australia,” said Treasurer John Frydenberg.
“Households will receive a stimulus payment of $750 across the full gambit of those who receive all sorts of benefit payments,” Mr Morrison said.
“The biggest beneficiaries of that will be pensioners. They comprise around half of those who will receive those payments.”
Mr Morrison was asked if recipients of the payment could pocket rather than spend the payment.
Mr Morrison said the payments should improve consumer confidence.
“I believe their common sense has demonstrated in the wake, and in response, to previous situations like this that it speaks for itself,” he said.
Sickness allowance wait time waived
Casual employees and independent contractors do not receive paid sick leave in Australia but they can claim a means-tested sickness allowance.
The payment is currently in the process of being changed, but Mr Morrison announced the waiting time to receive the payment will be waived. Asset test rules will still apply to the payment.
“It is a Newstart-level payment and people who are casual employees that wouldn’t be able to go to work or because they have to self-isolate or, indeed, have the virus, they would be able to access that payment,” Mr Morrison said.
Earlier this week, Mr Morrison warned large businesses their brands would suffer if they did not support workers who self-isolated due to the coronavirus.
Cut to deeming rates will increase pensions
The government will also lower deeming rates, which determine access to the pension and part-pension, as interest rates fall to record lows.
Mr Morrison confirmed deeming rates will fall by 50 basis points.
Small to medium employers also targeted
Businesses with employees and with turnover of less than $50 million will receive tax-free payments of between $2,000 and $25,000.
The government will also deliver businesses with fewer than 20 employees a 50 per cent wage subsidy for trainees and apprentices. It’s likely to support around 117,000 apprentices and will support wages over a nine-month period.