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Government announces business support package to offset virus impact

The New Zealand government unveiled support for the business community on Monday evening, hoping to buoy businesses that have felt the impact of the outbreak of coronavirus. 

According to the government, the announced business continuity package includes a targeted wage subsidy scheme for workers in affected sectors, training and re-deployment options for affected workers, and will work with banks to support businesses with temporary credit constraints. 

Finance minister Grant Robertson said New Zealand is well placed to respond to the virus, and that government ministers have been liaising with business and industry groups to respond to the impacts of Covid-19. 

According to a preliminary report, business confidence in ANZ fell sharply in March, down 53.3 per cent compared the last report released just a week and a half before, which was also down 19.4 per cent on the prior month. 

Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said the retail sector is under immense pressure, and that the impact on both large and small businesses has been getting worse over the past few weeks. 

“Our survey of members shows that around 60 per cent of respondents report that they have been negatively impacted by the current situation,” Harford said.

“Foot traffic is typically down right around the country. On average, in-store sales are down around 15 per cent, while online sales are down by nearly 10 per cent.”

According to Harford, almost a third of these affected businesses have already reduced staff hours and expect further reductions in the coming weeks, while 16 per cent have reduced staff numbers. 

In this context, Harford said, Retail NZ welcomes the government’s announcement – particularly that of the wage subsidy. 

“Retail NZ is keen to see the detail, and while not all retailers are seeing the impact of Covid-19 yet, a large number are seriously affected and will be very keen to see a support package roll out in the short term,” Harford said. 

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