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Last Thursday we spent most of the morning talking to small and medium business owners who were really doing it tough. It was really hard hearing their stories.
Their stories of uncertainty, financial insecurity and fear of the future. They couldn't keep going, but they simply had to. They had employees whose livelihoods depended on them. They were in too deep. No one would buy their businesses and many of them had their family homes tied to their means of earning a living. It was really tough and listening to the reality of being one of the backbones of businesses in this country was pretty gruelling.
Now the Finance Minister has announced a new Omicron support payment for struggling businesses. The Omicron peak should be over in 6 to 8 weeks and then we'll see restrictions gradually loosen, allowing businesses that have scraped through to be able to breathe again. There are strict criteria around who can apply for the loan and Mike touched on that too when he was talking to Grant Robertson. If you're already down 50% and then you have to show a 40% drop in turnover, how do you do that?
Firms must show a 40% revenue drop in seven consecutive days since the country moved to phase two of the Omicron response, compared with seven days in the six weeks immediately before the move to phase two. So strict timelines.
Those that qualify will get $4000 per business plus $400 for each full-time employee up to a maximum of 50 staff, firms that meet the criteria could get a maximum payment of $24,000 each fortnight for the next six weeks, which is when they expect to see the Omicron peak.
The government is also topping up the loans available under the small business cash flow loan scheme and Inland Revenue is providing more flexibility on tax payments and terms.
So really the question is, has the government listened to the needs of small and medium businesses? Is this the lifeline you desperately need, as it can vaguely sense that the end is nigh?