Australian Treasury Revises JobKeeper Cost to $70 Billion Instead of $130 Billion

May 22, 2020 Updated: May 22, 2020

The federal government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy program is now expected to cost $70 billion instead of $130 billion.

In a joint statement on May 22 Treasury and the tax office revised its figures for the program, with the number of employees forecast to be assisted now 3.5 million instead of 6.5 million.

About 1000 businesses made “significant errors” when reporting the number of employees estimated to receive help.

The most common error was reporting the amount of assistance they expected to receive rather than the number of employees expected to be eligible.

For example, instead of writing one eligible employee businesses wrote 1500—the amount received each fortnight through the program.

Treasury officials provided evidence to a Senate inquiry into the government’s COVID-19 response on Thursday, saying $8.1 billion had been paid out through the program.

The $1500 fortnightly payments began flowing to employers earlier this month and are legislated until the end of September.

The program is up for review in June.

The Morrison government has ruled out further extending the program to include casuals and migrant workers.

Treasury says its overall view of the labour market is unaffected by the reporting error, with expectations unemployment will rise to 10 percent.

By Rebecca Gredley in Canberra