Weekly Digest – 9 February 2022

Welcome back to our Weekly Digest. Read on for the latest updates and some ideas to help us all move forward.

Borders to Open in Stages from End of February

Borders will reopen in stages starting at the end of the month. The country’s borders have been closed for almost two years, apart from a short-lived travel bubble with Australia.

The border will initially open to vaccinated New Zealand citizens and visa holders coming from Australia, then from the rest of the world, and finally to all other vaccinated visitors. They will no longer have to stay in managed isolation facilities or MIQ, but self-isolation at home is required for 10 days.

PM Ardern: Omicron Wave Likely to Peak in March

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expecting Omicron cases to start peaking in late March and reach between 10,000 and 30,000 cases a day. According to Ardern, the more people who take the booster, the lower the likelihood of the peak.

Nearly 30% of the total population have received a booster shot, 83% have had at least one dose, and 77% have been fully vaccinated.

New Zealand Wine Launches Trade Hub

Trade body NZ Wine has launched a digital ‘Trade Hub’ on nzwine.com to celebrate New Zealand Wine Week. The Trade Hub features educational materials on the different wine regions and how to get in touch with producers. It also has image and video galleries, as well as details of virtual events taking place throughout this week.

The New Zealand Wine Catalogue 2022, which features more than 1000 New Zealand wines, will be accessible all year via the New Zealand Wine website.

Government Unveils Plan for Unemployment Insurance

The government unveiled its unemployment insurance plan wherein those who were laid off will be given payments worth 80% of their former income (capped at salaries of $130,911), for up to seven months after they lose their job.

This is aimed at smoothening the transition in and out of unemployment and helping people survive periods of not having a job. The scheme comes at a cost – a levy of 1.39 cents on every dollar earned by employees and businesses.

The policy, dubbed New Zealand Income Insurance Scheme (NZIIS) was announced at the Budget last year. The plan released on Wednesday is still in draft form and will go out for consultation.

Additional Support for Arts & Culture Sector

The government has announced that the arts and culture industry will receive a funding boost. A one-off $5000 grant will be provided for self-employed individuals or sole traders who can show proof of a loss of income or opportunity to work.

Also, the Cultural Sector Emergency Relief Fund has been provided with an additional $35.5 million, while the Arts and Culture Event Support Scheme will be given an extra $70 million so it can be extended to 31 January 2023. The Screen Production Recovery Fund has also been granted an additional $15 million, with $7.9 million going to the New Zealand Film Commission and $7.1 million allocated to New Zealand on Air.

Red Traffic Light Setting Explained

All of New Zealand moved to the red traffic light setting last Sunday after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern due to the community spread of the Omicron variant. Here’s what you can and can’t do:

  • Anyone can travel around the country. You don’t need to be vaccinated or have a negative test result unless you’re travelling by airline or ferry.
  • Vaccinated people can gather at home or at venues with a limit of 100 people, while unvaccinated individuals can gather at home or at venues that don’t require vaccine passes with a limit of 25 people.
  • Businesses can open with and without vaccine mandates, and employers must follow gathering limits.
  • Hospitality venues that use vaccine certificates can open to up to 100 people. Those who choose not to check vaccination status will have to go contactless.
  • Shops, outdoor markets, banks, and takeaway-only businesses can open with capacity limits based on 1-metre distancing.
  • Wearing of face masks is mandatory in certain settings such as on domestic flights, public transport, rideshare vehicles, inside a retail business, inside public venues or facilities, in indoor settings, and when visiting a health care service facility.

More information about the red setting can be found on the Unite Against COVID website.

Change in Leave Support Scheme

The Leave Support Scheme is now a weekly payment, instead of a two-week payment amid the change in the periods of self-isolation.

This scheme is available to employers and the self-employed to help pay their employees who have been advised to self-isolate because of COVID-19 and can’t work at home during that period.

The COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme is paid at the rate of:

  • $600.00 a week for full-time workers who were working 20 hours or more a week.
  • $359 a week for part-time workers who were working less than 20 hours a week.

You can learn more about it here.

Events Transition Support Scheme Launched

The Events Transition Support Scheme opened last week, covering 90% of unrecoverable costs for major events cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic. It will apply to live, in-person paid events with over 5,000 attendees from 17 December until 3 April 2022.

Small Business Cashflow Loan Scheme

If you employ 50 or fewer staff, you may be able to apply for the Small Business Cashflow Loan Scheme. This is a one-off 5 year loan where you can borrow a maximum of $10,000 plus $1,800 per full-time-equivalent employee within your business.

  • When applying for the loan, you need to be able to declare that your business is viable.
  • Your business must have experienced a minimum 30% decline in actual or predicted revenue over the period of a month, compared with the same month last year.
  • Applications are open until 31 December 2023 through myIR. If your business does not have a myIR account, you will need to create one to apply.

Loans will be interest free if they are paid back within 2 years. The interest rate is 3% for a maximum term of 5 years.

COVID-19 Short-Term Absence Payment

The Short-Term Absence Payment is available for businesses, including self-employed people, to help pay employees who cannot work from home while they wait at home for a COVID-19 test result. This is a one-off payment of $359 for each eligible worker. You can find the details here.

Kiwi Business Boost Tool

The Government has funded specialist consultancy support services to provide advice to businesses who need it. You can use the Kiwi Business Boost Tool to find out what services are available in your region.

The Treasury website’s COVID-19 Economic Response Measures can also provide more information on the range of support available to businesses.

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