Local experts continue to stress the importance of increasing the flexibility of JobKeeper requirements to help support businesses moving forward.
This follows reports JobKeeper payments will be reduced to $1200 for full-time workers and $750 for people working 20 hours or less from September to January before dropping to $1000 for the full-time rate and $600 for part-time staff from January to March.
While the extension of the program was applauded by Victorian president of the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) David Canny, he added the need for greater flexibility in terms of how staff can qualify for the support.
"It's a strong time-frame... The biggest issue remains the criteria of staff who are eligible," he said.
"What this doesn't recognise is that a lot of businesses in Victoria are still shut, and a lot of their workforce has been displaced. They're not there, and are unlikely to come back."
Mr Canny suggested a new, 'head-count' based measure for qualifying.
"We think the best measure to combat this is a headcount; how many eligible staff a business had at the outset of the pandemic should be the number they are eligible to claim on JobKeeper," he continued.
"The focus here has to be on business recovery... We want to encourage people to get back to work."
Looking at how hospitality venues across the region responded to the changes to JobKeeper, publican Robert Gayton said he is still in a position where he cannot bring in any new staff until business begins to return to normal trading.
"I'm hesitant to bring new staff in because of just how quiet it's gotten since the Melbourne shutdown," he said.
Mr Gayton, who owns the City Oval Hotel in Ballarat as well as Thompsons Hotel in Cobden, said while he was able to keep most of his staff on the payroll thanks to JobKeeper, he had to let four go because they did not meet the criteria.
"We had a few staff who had only joined us before Christmas... they fell through the holes because they weren't eligible.
"We've been able to keep staff on because of JobKeeper... without it, it likely would have been me, my wife and the cook," he laughed.
As well bringing in new staff to struggling businesses, Commerce Ballarat chief executive Jodie Gillett added the criteria needs to be changed to assist new businesses opening during the pandemic.
"The restrictions that are in place right now could stop new businesses from opening their doors. We don't want to see innovation and entrepreneurship being stifled over the next year," she said.
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