Wage subsidy brings relief



TOTS on Tour owner Lucy Wilkinson exemplifies the hundreds of small business owners in Queenstown who rely on travellers for their trade.

Which is why Wilkinson’s so relieved by the government’s wage subsidy package announced this week.

Her baby equipment hire and babysitting service has ‘‘practically come to a grinding halt’’ as a result of the coronavirus and the strict travel restrictions that came into effect on Monday morning.

Besides refunding Australian customers and ‘‘nervous’’ domestic customers, she had been stressing about how she was going to afford to keep paying her two staff, even on reduced hours.

One is on a sponsored work visa, and the rules require her to be paid for a minimum of 30 hours a week.

Her fears were only heightened on Monday when she was told by Immigration New Zealand there are no special exemptions for such workers, including the 30-hour rule.

But the three-month wage subsidy scheme announced by the government on Tuesday has has got around that issue, because she’s now confident she can keep employing her staff on reduced hours.

Her business will be ready to ‘‘pick up the pieces’’ when the crisis is over, she says.