It’s just not good enough for the Government to not give any guidance to the 456 businesses who are still receiving support after the November Kaikoura earthquake on the future levels of support. The money will dry up in two weeks, and the Government is refusing to answer questions about whether they will extend the wage subsidy being paid to businesses that can’t operate due to earthquake damage.
I know that it is very difficult to plan around an earthquake, especially with the ongoing aftershocks. But we can make plans for the damage that has already been sustained. And people need to know that the Government has their back, and is being decisive about their next steps. The damage from the quake, especially to the road, is not going to be fixed overnight.
I was speaking with someone working in a café in Kaikoura who would normally have made loads of money over the summer season. This year, sadly, has not been a good summer for people’s back pocket. It is not only the businesses that suffer but all the people who rely on that work as well. How are people meant to plan to pay their rent and bills when there is no certainty over what will happen in a fortnight? I have serious concerns about what the Government’s inaction will mean for the welfare of people living in earthquake affected areas. When people are financially stressed, that has flow-on consequences for the rest of the decisions they make, not to mention their mental health.
On the ground, I am hearing that the wage subsidy scheme hasn’t worked too well for the actual workers. I have heard reports of people forced to use up their holiday pay, and of employers not passing along the full amount to employees. The money should have been administered through Work & Income directly to the worker, not through the boss. The Government needs to go further than just the wages subsidy until SH 1 is reopened. A suspensory loan facility would help bridge the gap until tourist and domestic traffic returns closer to pre-quake levels.
If the Government is serious about ensuring businesses make it through the quakes, they need to extend the wage subsidy again. The 456 businesses, and their employees, that currently depend on the wage subsidy need answers from the Government, and quickly.