Canberra, March 12 (IANS) The Australian government on Thursday unveiled an economic stimulus package of AU$17.6 billion ($11.4 billion) to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 amid fears of a recession.
In a statement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the move was “to ensure that we keep Australians in jobs, that we keep businesses in business, and that we ensure the Australian economy is in a position to bounce back strongly on the other side”, reports Efe news.
The package is aimed at supporting business investment; providing cash flow assistance to small and medium-sized business to stay afloat and keep employees in jobs; targeted support for the most severely affect regions, sectors and communities; and household stimulus payments.
Morrison said the plan would affect 3.5 million companies and 6.5 million individuals.
Of the total package, some $11 billion will be available before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
A big component of the package includes $700 million to increase the instant asset write off threshold from $30,000 to $150,000 and expanded access to include businesses with an annual turnover of less than $500 million.
About $6.7 billion will be available to “Boost Cash Flow for Employers by up to $25,000 with a minimum payment of $2,000 for eligible small and medium-sized businesses”.
Money will also be available to keep apprentices in work, and $4.8 billion will provide welfare recipients, such as pensioners, veterans and job seekers, with one-off cash payments of $750.
The package will also create a $1 billion coronavirus fund to help affected sectors, regions and communities, including the tourism, agriculture and education sectors to cope with the fallout from the new coronavirus outbreak, which was declared a global pandemic on Wednesday by the World Health Organization
The move is in addition to another $2.4 billion in healthcare funding for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19, which in Australia has killed three people and infected more than 112, the majority of them in Sydney.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in a statement that “our plan keeps businesses operating, supports jobs and provides a stimulus to households”.
“The government has worked hard over the last six and a half years to return the budget to balance so we have the flexibility to respond to the serious economic challenges posed by the Coronavirus.”
Morrison added that the package is aligned with the actions the government has so far taken.
“Just as we have acted decisively to protect the health of the Australian people, based on the best evidence and medical advice, our support package responds to the economic challenges presented by this pandemic in a timely, proportionate and targeted way,” he said.