Support Packaging Not Enough to Counter COVID Losses

Members of Wellington’s business community have expressed that the Government’s new support package is a little light and very late.

Greig Wilson, owner of Epic Hospitality, was disappointed by the package, saying it wouldn’t be enough to assist businesses who felt they’d been cut adrift on their own for weeks.

“For an industry that is desperate, any help is good, but this doesn’t go far enough, for some operators, this won’t even touch the sides.”

Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced businesses that could show they had been affected by the Omicron outbreak would be eligible for a $4000 support payment plus $400 per full-time worker. Applications for the first payment open on February 28, with payments starting from March 1.

Wilson, whose company operates Vinyl Bar, Shady Lady and Eva Beva in central Wellington, had to reduce staff numbers to keep his business going. He said a wage subsidy, as has been used in previous stages of the Government’s Covid response, along with the package would have been better.

Wilson, like many business owners, has noticed a sharp drop in takings since the country entered the red setting of the Traffic Light System, with many people staying home and rules only allowing up to 100 people at venues.

Simon Arcus, chief executive of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the support, saying the chamber’s figures showed about 40 percent of businesses were down over half their usual takings since the shift to traffic light red.

“We know that for some that this announcement and support may not be enough, especially for those frustratingly impacted by protests and for retail, hospitality and events sectors who have been hit particularly hard by Omicron.”

Jose Ubiaga, who owns The Residence, Dakota Bar and The Establishment, said he’d have preferred a wage subsidy, but every little bit helped.

“It was better than I’d expected... and it’s better than nothing.”

Despite the package he said some businesses were not going to survive the red setting. With plans to sell his ute this week, he said a lot of owners were having to dip into their own pockets to keep their businesses afloat.