Coronavirus: Simon Bridges implores Government to use National's COVID-19 ideas

coronavirus 06/05/2020

Simon Bridges is imploring the Government to use National's COVID-19 economic response ideas and quickly start "getting New Zealand working again".

On Tuesday, National released a tax relief plan aimed at responding to the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent economic impact the nationwide lockdown had on Kiwi workers and businesses. It included a GST cash refund for the most severely affected businesses as well as temporarily lifting the threshold to expense new capital investment for firms.

In the month to April 17, capturing much of the alert level 4 lockdown, there were around 30,000 Jobseeker applications, while RNZ reported on Tuesday night that leaked documents show the Ministry of Social Development preparing for 300,000 extra benefit applications. 

Treasury found in mid-April that unemployment could be kept under 10 percent, and return to 5 percent next year, if the Government provided additional financial support.

Bridges said National's plan would "mean businesses, in a targeted way, in a generous way but targeted, would get the support they need".

"Having very few or no COVID-19 cases isn't success if we have got seriously growing unemployment lines and people suffering. Behind every [statistic] is very real suffering," he told The AM Show on Wednesday.

"We are trying to think about the things that need to happen actually to make sure New Zealand is much stronger than it is today."

Questioned on whether he would want to see the Government take up National's ideas, Bridges was all for it.

"Absolutely. I would clap if that was what happened. We have got a Budget in a week's time. My message to Grant Robertson and Jacinda Ardern is really clear, 'take it', do it now though. Waiting to Budget day will be too late."

"What we know with those 1000 going on the dole queue is every day, right at the moment it is crunch time, businesses are making these decisions and they need the certainty and the confidence they will have the cash to pay the rents and the rates and the other expenses and that there is a plan for them."

On top of the wage subsidy, which has paid out more than $10 billion to businesses, the Government has also put aside $6.25 billion for its Business Finance Guarantee scheme, $100 million for a redeployment programme for workers and made several changes to provide greater flexibility to businesses in dealing with their tax obligations.

The Small Business Cashflow Scheme announced on Friday allows businesses the opportunity to receive interest-free loans of up to $100,000 depending on their size.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni last week said the Government would "act quickly and proactively" to deal with the newly unemployed through a set of new initiatives. Those included an online recruitment tool and 35 new employment centres to connect job seekers with employers.