Few, if any, people have received any money from the government, with two bureaucracies — Centrelink and businesses — needed to first filter the payments before any is paid out. There are two schemes, JobSeeker (for the unemployed) and JobKeeper (for those who are employed). There is news this morning that the JobKeeper payments may be cut back.
Full disclosure: as a sole trader, I have applied for the JobKeeper payment.
Those who are unemployed have no choice, but to endure the painful process that Centrelink, an organisation which would win awards for incompetence, puts them through. The government could well have asked for payments to be made promptly and for the form-filling and niggling to be done later.
Most of the money that the government is offering is through the JobKeeper scheme - $130 billion. Businesses are first supposed to pay their employees at the rate of $1500 per fortnight while they (the businesses) apply to the Australian Taxation Office to gauge their eligibility to receive the JobKeeper payment.
The ATO knows the business status of every worker and business in the country and is the most efficient entity in the public sector when it comes to either taking money from citizens or paying them. Yet, the government chose to add additional bureaucratic requirements which will leave businesses wondering about their fate.
Some enterprises have taken to telling their employees that they will apply for the scheme if the employees are willing to pay them a percentage - something that is illegal. But then a crisis like the pandemic is a good time to make some money and who is willing to let the opportunity go to waste?
And though Australia has come to the stage when it has drafted a three-stage plan to reopen the country, JobKeeper claimants are still waiting with their hands out. When will the money be paid - after people have starved to death? after they have become bankrupt? after they have been evicted from their rental properties?
The ATO could have been asked to make the payments to those who are eligible immediately, instead of sitting on things. But when you have a neoliberal government in power, one that is ideologically opposed to what it would no doubt class as socialism, this is what you get.
A six-month term has been set for these payments and the government is already making noises that the flow of money may be stopped before that time is up. No economist of any repute is willing to bet that things will be back to normal in September – yet the government is quite insistent that the payments will end by that time.
What use is government assistance when it comes in the form of a drip-bucket like this? The government has earned misplaced praise for its JobSeeker and JobKeeper schemes. It should now be roundly hammered for letting ideology get in the way of helping its own subjects.