With nearly half of the Australian population currently subject to some form of lockdown, there are increasing calls for monetary support for individuals and businesses. On 15 July 2021, the Federal Government introduced the COVID-19 Disaster Payment (Disaster Payment). Whilst we have not  gone back to ‘JobKeeper’ (and the indications are that we will not), given the changing nature of lockdowns and extensions, there is an additional amount of government funding being provided at federal, state and territory levels.

We encourage clients to keep an eye on developments as the level of assistance and eligibility criteria are likely to change at short notice.

The Disaster Payment is a payment made to employers with the aim of supporting workers where a state or territory health order is operational placing restrictions on movement. As of the date of publication, public health orders imposing movement restrictions are in operation in both New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria, and are the focus of this update.

The Disaster Payment has been introduced through the Financial Framework (Supplementary Powers) Amendment (Home Affairs No. 2) Regulations 2021 and the Financial Framework (Supplementary Powers) Amendment (Home Affairs No. 3) Regulations 2021 that both amended the Financial Framework (Supplementary Powers) Regulations 1997.

Employee Assistance for New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria

For workers in New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria under health order movement restrictions, a Disaster Payment is available to support eligible workers. Importantly, sole traders are also able to access the Disaster Payment if unable to operate their business from home.

The Disaster Payment is available for the second and subsequent weeks of any restrictions. The gross amount of the Disaster Payment for workers depends on how long restrictions last for and how many hours of work the worker has lost. At this stage, Disaster Payments are as follows:

  Weeks 2 and 3 of restrictions Week 4 and onwards of restrictions
Less than 20 hours of work lost $325 per week $375 per week
20 hours or more of work lost $500 per week $600 per week

For more information on employer and employee eligibility for the Disaster Payment please see the Treasury Disaster Payment Fact Sheet.

New South Wales business support payments

From the fourth week of health order restrictions being operational, small and medium sized affected businesses in New South Wales will become eligible to receive additional support payments. Businesses are simultaneously eligible for additional support payments whilst employees receive Disaster Payments. Eligible businesses are those:

  • with an annual turnover between $75,000 and $50 million;
  • who have suffered a 30% reduction in turnover over the equivalent 2 week period in 2019; and
  • have maintained their staffing levels as at 13 July 2021.

Support payments will be made weekly directly to businesses. Payments will equate to 40% of New South Wales payroll payments that a business must make for its employees with a minimum of $1,500 and a maximum of $10,000 payments being made per week.

For non-employing businesses, the support payment will be a flat $1,000 per week.

For more information on eligibility please see the Federal Treasurer’s Support Package Announcement.

South Australia

As at the date of this note, South Australia has gone into a 7 day lockdown. The Prime Minister’s office has confirmed that eligible South Australian employees will be eligible for the Disaster Payment.

For more information on support being provided to South Australians, please see the Prime Minister’s Media Release.

Future developments

Given that developments are likely to arise at short notice, we encourage clients to regularly monitor federal, state and territory government websites to get up to date information on the level of assistance available.

This article was prepared by Shivchand Jhinku, Partner and Nikhil Mishra, Solicitor.

For more information or advice on this topic, please contact:

Shivchand Jhinku
Shivchand Jhinku
Partner, Sydney
+61 2 9225 5228
Natalie Gaspar
Natalie Gaspar
Partner, Melbourne
+61 3 9288 1091