SC business leader seeks Government clarification over Covid-19 support
Confusion over which businesses will be eligible for wage subsidies and other financial assistance, has prompted the South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce to seek clarification from the Government.
Chamber chief executive Wendy Smith said initial advice from the Government made it unclear whether businesses impacted by a three-day lockdown in the South Island would be eligible for subsidies covering those three days.
“Three days lockdown can have one week's impact,” Smith said.
Businesses which were most prominently in the firing line last year during the Covid-19 shutdown, were again being impacted heavily, Smith said.
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“Hospitality and tourism are being hit harder than anyone with cancellation of events and a loss of confidence in the marketplace.
“Smaller retailers will also be hit hard. Anyone who has stock with a short shelf life will be impacted.”
She said the Chamber was calling on the Government to offer immediate assistance and had lobbied Rangitata MP Jo Luxton.
“We've been in touch with Jo Luxton, who said the power to act ministers will make a final decision and the Prime Minister has indicated that it (subsidy support) would be nationwide,” Smith said.
Luxton said Ministers were still making final decisions, but applications for the wage subsidy would be open as of Friday.
“They’re still thinking how it will go around and how it will work.”
Smith said business owners had expressed considerable concern at the uncertainty. Having spoken to Luxton, Smith said she was told the Government was working out details to align with previous wage subsidies.
“All we can do is wait until Friday. It’s disappointing we have not got the information now in black and white to give assurance.”
On Tuesday evening, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS) was available nationally when there was a regional or national move to alert levels 3 and 4 for a period of seven days. No mention was made of three days.
Smith said any possible subsidy from the Government would not cover all costs for employers, just a portion.
Smith said there had been warning signals that a lockdown would be implemented, but in the end it had come quickly and as a shock.
It was particularly disappointing for businesses which had fought their way back from last year's lockdown, she said.
NZ Hospitality South Canterbury president Kristy Phillips hoped the lockdown would be short and end with a positive outcome for everyone.
“But even a three-day lockdown is a nail and another blow; whilst we're resilient, it builds up.”
Phillips said the lockdown meant no income for three days while fixed overheads remained, although South Canterbury was fortunate to have essential services that kept going.
“Our industry relies on their support.”
Stafford St retailer Dorothy Tucker, of Kidstuff, said
she had been renovating her shop and managed to get the work completed by 5pm on Tuesday.
Lessons learned from last year's lockdown had helped on this occasion. Tucker said she had updated her website, installed new software and was now selling goods regularly to the North Island.
“Last year was a wake-up call, we've moved to the next level and the whole team has got on board.”