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Cook Islands Government set to spend extra $15m in wage subsidy
05:45 am GMT+12, 18/11/2020, Cook Islands

The business community has welcomed a Government announcement to pay an additional $15 million(US$10 million) in wage subsidy payments by extending the financial support programme until the end of February 2021.
 
So far, the government has paid out $25 million(US$17 million) in wage subsidy after launching the scheme in April as part of its Covid-19 economic response plan.
 
Ministry of Finance and Economic Management’s Natalie Cooke said they were expecting to pay out approximately $15 million (US$10 million) in the coming months, “again this depends on the number of businesses that remain eligible”.
 
Cooke, who is the director of economic planning division, said the number of businesses and employees eligible for this subsidy changes.
 
“This changes monthly depending on the number of applications received and the number of businesses that meet the eligibility requirements (i.e. whether a business has met the 50 per cent requirement).”
 
Prime Minister Mark Brown last week announced extension of the wage subsidy initiative which was supposed to end on 31 December.
 
“Under lifeline support, the wage subsidy is being extended until the end of February 2021. This recognises that even if borders open, businesses are likely to need additional support,” Brown said.
 
“The Government will also provide a further sole trader grant from January 1 of $2000(US$1,378) to align with the extension of the wage subsidy and continue to support livelihoods. This extension will now be subject to the business showing a 50 per cent or more decrease in turnover.”
 
Liana Scott, the president of Tourism Industry Council, welcomed the wage subsidy extension.
 
“The wage subsidy extension until the end of February is a positive move forward and is a key measure designed to keep our population employed and earning an income which is then filtered through the economy via expenditure,” Scott said.
 
Scott, who is also the general manager of Muri Beach Club Hotel, said they have their full team on board, adding they have been fortunate to have had a few functions to keep them going.  
 
“We have also elected to remain open to the public for breakfast and lunch daily, and dinner for either special events or alternatively Friday to Sunday although patronage is patchy and hardly justifies the cost,” she said.
 
“The day Spa is picking up as it has a local following and this is encouraging.
 
“We are grateful to Cook Islands Government’s for the extension of the response package which will allow us to keep staff employed. All our staff are actively engaged and there is no shortage of work to be done.”
 
Clinton Pickering, who relies on wage subsidy, hailed government for providing income to workers like him.
 
“If it wasn’t for government’s support, the ordinary people would have been struggling. The Economic Response Plan is a positive initiative from government supporting the people.”
 
Pickering said the extension of the subsidy was timely as they were approaching the festive season and the new school year.

SOURCE: COOK ISLANDS NEWS/PACNEWS


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