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Scott Morrison announces extra financial support for locked-down Sydney

·3-min read

The federal government has announced additional financial support for residents and businesses in locked down greater Sydney, bringing combined government assistance for the state to more than $1bn a week.

The revamped financial assistance package, which will lift disaster payments to up to $750 a week and include a $200 weekly supplement payment for people on government benefits, also includes an expanded business package co-funded with the NSW government and aimed at propping up bigger employers.

Announcing the package, the prime minister, Scott Morrison, said the individual payments were more appropriate than last year’s national jobkeeper program, which lasted six months and cost an estimated $90bn.

Related: NSW Covid update: 177 new cases as some construction restrictions lifted and Sydney lockdown extended by a month

“What we are doing now is faster, it is more effective, it is more targeted, it is getting help where it is needed, far more quickly,” Morrison said.

“We are not dealing with a pandemic outbreak across the whole country. When we did jobkeeper, we had to employ it across the whole country, all at once, and we did it for six months.

“What we need now is to focus effort on where the need is right now, and so it can be turned on and off to the extent that we have outbreaks that occur.

“Jobkeeper didn’t have that flexibility. It didn’t have that agility.”

The new federal package, which comes after intense lobbying from the NSW government for the reinstatement of jobkeeper, lifts the disaster payments to the same level as jobkeeper for people who have lost more than 20 hours of work a week – up to $750 from $600.

For those who have lost between eight and 20 hours a week, the payment lifts from $375 to $450, while those on government benefits who have lost more than eight hours’ work will receive $200.

Under the business package, eligible companies and not-for-profits will now receive payments of between $1,500 and $100,000 per week based on their payroll, with the turnover threshold lifted from $50m to $250m.

The new payment rate will apply to all future lockdowns lasting at least a week, and will begin in NSW from next week.

Morrison said the total federal commitment would cost about $750m a week. The state’s share of the business package is estimated at $300m a week, bringing the combined package to at least $1bn.

The government also announced an extra $200m for Victorian businesses coming out of the state lockdown, and said similar support would flow to South Australia if needed.

Related: Can NSW contain the Delta outbreak?

As Sydney recorded its highest number of cases of Covid-19 since the lockdown began on Wednesday, Morrison also urged people to stay the course, saying “the sooner the lockdown works, the sooner we get out of lockdown”.

“We have to push through this lockdown. There is no other shortcut, there is no other way through. We just have to hunker down and push through,” he said.

The comments come ahead of this Friday’s meeting of national cabinet, which will consider modelling from the Doherty Institute on the vaccination targets needed to ease restrictions.

Morrison said he did not believe the plan would be finalised after this Friday’s meeting, but he hoped that a roadmap could be released within weeks.

He said that he was hopeful that this would provide a pathway back to a more normal life, with a higher vaccination rate allowing for governments to take a different approach to suppressing the virus.

“I would expect by Christmas that we would be seeing a very different Australia to what we are seeing now,” he said.

“Lockdowns become a thing of the past when you are at that level.”

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