Jacinda Ardern pledges more Covid-19 crisis aid for small businesses in lead up to Christmas

Source: 1News

The Government is offering further support to businesses in the lead up to Christmas as part of its top economic priorities, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today.

She said her Government would be extending the small business loan scheme out to three years and extending the interest-free period to two years, as well as initiating the roll out of the flexi-wage job support programme.

"The Government has two overarching objectives - to accelerate the economic recovery and to keep New Zealanders safe from Covid. These priorities reflect these objectives," Ardern said in a speech to Business New Zealand.

"With Covid getting worse around the world and parts of Europe re-entering lockdown, it’s clear the economic impact of the virus is going to remain with us for some time. It's important that viable but vulnerable business, who may experience issues down the track, still have access to this line of credit to help them through.

"Making these changes before Christmas provides small business with certainty, especially when the holiday period can be a quieter time for some businesses who may need to access the scheme."

It was revealed by Statistics New Zealand yesterday that the number of people without a job in New Zealand has risen by almost a third due to the effects of Covid-19.

The latest numbers put New Zealand's total unemployment rate at 5.3 per cent - up 1.3 percentage points from four per cent in the previous quarter.

However, Ardern touted the statistics as "better than expected", especially in comparison to Australia, the US and Canada.

"We cannot rest on our laurels and we want to see more New Zealanders obtain work, which is why we are prioritising the roll out of the flexi-wage scheme prior to Christmas," Ardern said.

"We will invest an additional $311 million into the programme to increase the average subsidy paid to employers to take on a worker and enable an additional 40,000 unemployed people to take advantage of the programme.

"Māori, Pasifika and women have been disproportionately impacted by job losses to date. My hope is the expanded flexi-wage scheme will play an important role in helping people from these groups to get quickly back into work."

Ardern said Cabinet would also look to tick off more infrastructure projects to go through the RMA fast-track process over the coming weeks in order to speed up job creation and has instructed officials to start preparations on options to boost exports, including trade missions to key markets such as the US, China, EU and UK.

"Cabinet will look at further projects to go into the fast-track process before the end of the year. Infrastructure is central to our recovery plan. These projects are job rich and will help to build New Zealand back better from the downturn," Ardern said.

She added that New Zealand's exports had held up well despite the global slow down.

"Our commitment to international trade and our trusted brand of clean green and safe means our products are in high demand.

"When our border settings change I plan to lend my support to extending our trade efforts by leading a business delegation to key trading partners, including the US, China and the UK and EU, who we are currently in free trade talks with."