While over 900,000 businesses have expressed interest in the JobKeeper scheme since it was announced in late March, just over 400,000 businesses have submitted their applications, covering some 2.4 million employees. The release of this data coincides with reports that small businesses are shunning the scheme over their inability to pay their employees in the lead-up to the initial payment in May.
In order to provide more time and ensure the scheme’s efficiency, the ATO announced over the weekend that the Commissioner of Taxation will now allow businesses to enrol for the first two JobKeeper fortnights by 31 May, an extension from 30 April.
The Tax Office also clarified that for the first two fortnights — 30 March to 12 April and 13 April to 26 April — it will accept the late payments of the minimum $1,500 per fortnight, provided they are paid by the end of April.
“If you enrol by 31 May, you will still be able to claim for the fortnights in April and May, provided you meet all the eligibility requirements for each of those fortnights,” the ATO’s notice reads.
“This includes having paid your employees by the appropriate date for each fortnight.”
The Tax Office further explained that employers are able to enrol and claim for JobKeeper earlier if they choose. For example, they can enrol by the end of April to claim JobKeeper payments for the two fortnights in April.
Small businesses shunning JobKeeper
Late last week, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, addressed reports that many small businesses are not applying for the JobKeeper payment because they can’t afford to pay staff by 30 April.
“Small businesses that believe they are eligible to apply for JobKeeper really must do so quickly,” Ms Carnell said.
“There have been reports that some small businesses, particularly in the tourism and hospitality sectors, have not applied for JobKeeper because they cannot pay $1,500 for each eligible staff member per fortnight.
“The big four banks have established JobKeeper helplines that are dedicated to this issue alone.”
She advised businesses to explore lines of credit being offered to JobKeeper applicants in the lead-up to the initial payment from the ATO.
“The banks are promising to fast-track these applications, so you can get the necessary funds you need to pay your staff.”
Ms Carnell explained that it’s especially critical that small businesses that are struggling to pay their rent apply for the JobKeeper payment because they are only covered by the Mandatory Commercial Tenancy Code of Conduct if they are eligible for JobKeeper.
“This may be essential to your business’ survival,” she said.
Above all, the ASBFEO said: “We want to see small business survive this difficult time so they can thrive on the other side. JobKeeper provides the practical financial support small businesses need as we wait for this health crisis to pass.”