March 31, 2020 20:13:57
The WA Government has announced a $1 billion financial relief package which ensures no family will have their water or power cut off if they cannot pay their bills due to the coronavirus economic crisis.
Interest-free repayment plans will be made available under the schemeThere will be no late payment penalties for other government charges These include land tax, transfer duty and vehicle licence duty
Premier Mark McGowan today announced a suite of measures aimed at supporting households and small to medium-sized businesses.
The measures are targeted to limit economic hardship for those suffering under the shutdowns imposed to prevent the spread of the virus.
“When someone has just lost their job, the last thing I want them worrying about is paying their water or power bill,” Mr McGowan said.
“We’ve also taken the step to ensure no household who is unable to pay their water or power bill because of COVID-19 will have their power or water disconnected.”
Mr McGowan said from Wednesday, no interest would be charged on government charges that are not paid because of virus-related financial hardship.
“Households will also be able to apply for an interest-free payment arrangement and for late payment penalties to be waived for transfer duty, landholder duty, vehicle licence duty or land tax,” he said.
Additionally, the Energy Assistance Payment — a rebate given to concession card holders — will be made available for people who have lost their job as a result of the pandemic.
Earlier this month it was announced the payment would be doubled to $600 to help seniors in particular.
People will have until September 30 to apply for the concession.
The measures are in addition to a stimulus package announced earlier this month, worth $607 million.
Keystart loan relief
Mr McGowan also announced some relief measures for struggling Keystart home loan customers.
Keystart provides loans to disadvantaged buyers who are unable to meet the deposit requirements of mainstream lenders.
“Keystart customers facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 will also be able to defer principal repayments and waive interest costs for up to six months,” Mr McGowan said.
“Assistance will be assessed on a case-by-case basis in line with Keystart’s hardship assessment policy.”
Relief for small businesses, community services
The package contains relief for businesses and the community services sector.
Some small and medium-sized businesses will receive a reduction in their electricity bills, licence fees will be waived and further payroll tax relief is on the way.
Mr McGowan said electricity bills for about 95,000 businesses would be reduced, at a cost of nearly $240 million.
He said a one-off $2,500 credit available for Synergy and Horizon Power customers that consumed less than 50 megawatt hours (MWh) per annum would be available to those suffering economic hardship due to the coronavirus lockdown.
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Affected businesses with annual wages of less than $7.5 million will have their payroll tax waived for four months, from March 1 to June 30.
An estimated $100 million in licence and statutory fees will also be waived over the next 12 months for affected businesses.
This includes licences for building services, plumbers and electricians and tourism operators among others.
Liquor licence renewal fees for 2020 will be waived and businesses that have already paid will be refunded.
“These are targeted measures, targeted measures aimed to support Western Australians who’ve been directly impacted by the COVID-19 virus,” Mr McGowan said.
About 2,800 charities will have their electricity bills reduced with a one-off credit of $2,500.
Government agencies will continue to pay contracts to community service providers until at least June 30, even if those services cannot currently be delivered.
Public transport scaled back amid shutdown
The WA Government will reduce the number of public transport services available from April 6 to 26.
Weekday bus and train services will move to Saturday timetables, and all train services after midnight on weekends will be stopped.
The Sunday train and bus schedules will remain unchanged.
CAT bus services will also operate less frequently and Transperth ferries will operate on a winter timetable.
TransWA services will continue to regional areas, but passengers will need to fill out a regional travel exemption form to prove they are among those permitted to travel despite the regional movement lockdown which comes into force at midnight tonight.
WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the schedules would be reviewed after three weeks.
Recovery to take ‘years’, WA Treasurer says
Treasurer Ben Wyatt said the State and Commonwealth governments were trying to complement each other with their economic packages that have so far been announced.
“[We are] ensuring that we have capacity to allow those business, allow households, to batten down those hatches over the next few months,” Mr Wyatt said.
“But also to allow the State Government to have capacity to build for recovery.”
Mr Wyatt was optimistic WA households and businesses were now well set up to go into months of economic hibernation.
The Treasurer said he already had one eye on how to lead a post-pandemic economic recovery, but warned it would not be a quick process.
“Efforts around and planning around what recovery might look like are already underway, whenever we are ready to trigger that,” Mr Wyatt said.
“I expect recovery will take a number of years and a number of budgets.”
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WA’s Opposition leader Liza Harvey said the stimulus was welcomed, but some of the state’s most vulnerable people were still falling through the cracks.
“Under the McGowan Government plan, anyone who loses their job due to coronavirus is eligible for the concession card and the utility bills relief,” Ms Harvey said.
“But workers who get the Federal Government’s JobKeeper payment are not considered to have lost their job and will therefore not get any assistance from the State Government.
“This is a significant hole in the safety net for struggling West Australian families.”
Another $500 million for frontline health services
The WA Government says it will spend another $500 million on health and frontline service delivery.
This includes increasing supplies of personal protective equipment, ventilators, more staff and additional beds.
“[This is] to cope with the surge in the demand in the health system,” Mr McGowan said.
Earlier on Tuesday, WA’s Health Minister Roger Cook outlined how $15 million had already been spent procuring additional ventilators and ICU beds.
“All up, it is a very significant package … one that has been pulled together quickly to make sure we continue to give West Australians the support they need during these extraordinary times to try and keep employment and businesses alive.
“Our responsible budget management over the last three years has assisted us to be able to respond in this way.”
March 31, 2020 16:31:33