The CEO of the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), Paul Zahra, today welcomed the Federal Government’s expansion of the JobKeeper program, which is expected to provide significant relief for retailers impacted by severe lockdowns in Victoria.
Mr Zahra said the expanded eligibility criteria for the program would allow retailers struggling under the weight of restrictions to access support measures, even if they had a reprieve the previous quarter after a post-April spike in retail spending.
“This decision provides a timely lifeline to many businesses who were facing uncertainty about their future following the newly imposed Victorian restrictions, and will secure countless retail jobs that would have otherwise been threatened.
“The eased eligibility requirements, which allow retailers to isolate their performance within this current lockdown period, provides peace of mind for those whose state or national business is strongly impacted by the crisis conditions in Victoria.
“This will give many retailers the confidence to continue, and help sustain them through the crucial Christmas trading period, and which provides significant employment for people across the country,” Mr Zahra said.
The revamped program would also expand to potentially cover more staff, with those employed as of 1 July 2020 now qualifying for the program, revised from those employed at March 1.
“Staff who have recently been hired, following the mid-year spike in trading, will also be given more security, with today’s announcement providing support to keep them connected with their employer and preserving their jobs for the recovery period,” Mr Zahra added.
Mr Zahra also called on the states to review their commercial rent relief legislation, which currently expires in September across most states and territories.
“Rent remains one of the biggest pain points for retailers. We have been advocating for state and territory governments to renew their commercial rent relief schemes to provide much needed certainty for SMEs as we approach the critical October to December quarter.
“With the onset of Victoria’s severe stage 4 restrictions, we know the impacts of COVID-19 on retail will be felt well beyond September this year. We need to do everything we can to protect the jobs in the retail sector, many of which are held by women and young people.”
“It will be a challenging and bumpy road to recovery for many, and we continue to work closely with all levels of government to ensure a positive future for the sector and for the Australian economy,” Mr Zahra concluded.