Nearly 290,000 Australian businesses have registered for the new JobKeeper subsidy in less than 24 hours, as questions arise over whether newer businesses will be eligible for the payment.
Figures from the Australian Taxation Office showed as of midday on Tuesday, around 190,000 unique ABNs had registered their interest in the subsidy, which allows businesses to claim $1500 per fortnight for each worker it retained during the coronavirus pandemic.
By 5pm, that figure had risen to 285,623 registrations.
"We anticipate that the number of registrations will continue to grow over the coming days as businesses register their interest with us," an Australian Taxation Office spokesman said.
The figures nearly parallel the 280,000 people who registered for Centrelink's JobSeeker payments in just one day last week.
It is hoped the $130 billion package will keep around 6 million people in jobs and cushion the blow of the global pandemic, which has forced the shutdown of whole industries virtually overnight.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash told 2GB she had received calls from businesses that were re-hiring staff after initially letting them go due to the shut downs.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the debt burden would be "shouldered by the generations to come" but it was necessary.
"We must ensure that we can continue to provide the support to the public at this particular time and we will obviously manage the budget at the same time as well," he told ABC radio.
However it is unclear whether businesses less than a year old will be eligible for the payment.
In order to claim, a business with turnover of less than $1 billion needs to provide its turnover will be reduced by 30 per cent relative to a comparable period one year earlier.
For businesses with a turnover of more than $1 billion, that downturn must be more than 50 per cent.
Labor's spokesman for small and family business, Brendan O'Connor has written to Senator Cash for urgent clarification.
"Some businesses have contacted us believing the publicly released details of the JobKeeper payment means they are ineligible as they may not be able to compare a current period with significant declines in revenue to a comparable period a year earlier," Mr O'Connor wrote.
"As you are aware, small businesses are extremely precarious in the early stages. Often the hardest part of starting a business is finding the best staff for that particular business.
"For a business that has done the hard work of finding good staff and in these early stages of its operation, a crisis such as this one is likely to wipe them out and in many cases they will never reopen.
"By clarifying whether this scheme is open to businesses that have been operating for less than 12 months you will give them a chance to get through this and re-establish their business with their staff once the crisis passes. I hope you will give this matter immediate consideration."
Treasury was unable to respond to a request for comment by deadline.
Meanwhile Greens leader Adam Bandt warned nearly one million casual workers would miss out on support, because they had been employed for less than 12 months.
"We know that casual work can be incredibly transient. Already, we're seeing research that suggests that close to 950,000 casual workers won't be eligible for this payment because they have changed jobs in the past 12 months.
"This is most common for workers in the industries that have been hardest hit by the economic impacts of the coronavirus, including retail and hospitality.
"This is also a gender inequality issue, with women most likely to be excluded.
"By restricting the payment to long term casual workers, the scheme fails to reflect the realities of modern working life."
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