MELBOURNE – Nearly half the workers at private companies in the state of Victoria will receive a federal wage subsidy as a surge of coronavirus cases forces a near total lockdown in the second most populous state, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says.
Melbourne, the capital of Victoria and the country’s second largest city, began a six-week total lockdown on Thursday, shuttering shops and businesses and requiring its five million inhabitants to stay home.
With Australia making it easier to qualify for wage subsidies, Frydenberg said half of the private sector labour force in Victoria will receive a two-weekly payment of $1,500, a program known as JobKeeper.
Australia’s wage subsidy scheme, which is scheduled to run until March 2021 and cost more than $32.4 billion, is among measures seeking to prop up the economy, which is entering its first recession in nearly three decades.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said unemployment was forecast to peak at 10%, with effective unemployment closer to 14% when counting workers in the wage subsidy scheme.
But authorities say the lockdown of Melbourne is the only way to contain the second wave outbreak of COVID-19 which has infected thousands in recent weeks.
Victoria reported on Thursday 471 new COVID-19 cases and eight deaths in the previous 24 hours.
Australia has 20,000 reported cases of the virus, of which Victoria accounts for 13,000. Nationwide, deaths total 255, still far fewer than many other developed nations.