The NSW government would hand households $100 restaurant vouchers in a bid to boost the state’s post-coronavirus pandemic economy, under a budget plan under serious consideration by Treasurer Dominic Perrottet.
The measure — to be the centrepiece of the state budget later this month — has been costed at roughly $500m and will be targeted for use at cafes, restaurants, pubs and other hospitality venues, three officials with knowledge of the discussions told The Australian on Thursday.
The vouchers would not be redeemable for the sale of alcohol and would be provided to residents over the age of 18.
Households with more than two people would be eligible to receive the full payment, while single person households would receive $50 under the plan, officials said.
Mr Perrottet declined to answer questions about the measure, but a spokesman said the budget would have a “very strong focus on creating jobs, boosting the economy and keeping the community safe from COVID-19”.
The measure has already been signed off by the government’s Expenditure Review Committee — chaired by Mr Perrottet — but not put to cabinet, The Australian understands.
The stimulus payment, devised by Restaurant & Catering Australia, is based on a similar scheme deployed in Britain known as “Eat Out to Help Out”.
”NSW has the digital infrastructure and service delivery capability to deliver this program quickly and with high customer satisfaction, similarly to active and creative kids vouchers,” said chief executive Wes Lambert, referring to programs that boosted youth participation in the arts and sport.
”Its impact cannot be understated — it will save businesses and be utterly transformational during a time of immense stress and pressure,” he said.
While retail sales and construction activity remain at healthy levels in NSW, despite the pandemic, the hospitality sector remains depressed because of lost trade, and this is expected to continue until the tourism economy is revived.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics in the months after pandemic restrictions were enforced found 70 per cent of hospitality businesses around Australia had to reduce staff hours while 43 per cent had to sack workers or place them on unpaid leave.
Mr Perrottet remains in the final stages of completing the state’s COVID-19 budget, handed down on November 17.
On Thursday, Gladys Berejiklian flagged concerns with the state’s employment market, which she said had softened as a result of the four-month-long lockdown of Victoria and border closures enforced by Queensland and Western Australia.
The NSW Premier said these closures had hampered supply chains and forced the state to think creatively about how to fortify its existing jobs base. One measure to be implemented, known as Jobs Plus, will see $250m spent to lure companies from interstate and abroad.
Those that establish themselves in NSW will receive payroll tax cuts for every new job created, provided this amounts to more than 30 positions. Ms Berejiklian said this would ensure companies made genuine efforts to move the nerve centres of their operations to NSW. “Providing jobs, keeping jobs and job security is the biggest challenge our nation will face … unless we get those policy parameters right today, hundreds of thousands of people will risk being out of the workforce,” she said.
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