Economist calls on Government to change financial support package application process

Infometrics senior economist Brad Olsen is calling for the Government to help "tired businesses" by changing the way it processes the Covid-19 Short-term Absence Payment.

Owner of Mount Eden’s Wild Wheat Bakery, Andrew Fearnside. Source: Supplied

Currently, if you are awaiting a Covid-19 test result at home, your employer can apply for a one-off $350 payment for each employee.

Olsen said businesses are already "exhausted" and these applications create "extra pressure".

"Every time a different worker needs to get a Covid-19 test, the employer needs to lodge a different application for each worker," Olsen told 1 NEWS.

Economist Brad Olsen. Source: 1 NEWS

Owner of Mount Eden’s Wild Wheat Bakery, Andrew Fearnside, said he recently applied for the Covid-19 Short-term Absence Payment for one of his employees who was identified as a casual plus contact.

"It would be an administrative nightmare trying to apply for 20 employees," Fearnside said.

Already feeling the pressure of an overnight alert level change, Fearnside told 1 NEWS that employees should be able to apply for financial support and then the employer could verify it.

"It would be so much easier for the employee to run that application. We're already dealing with so much trying to adhere to Level 3," he said.

Olsen said the application process needs to be more direct.

"Instead of having employers claim it, the process should be an immediate payment via MSD, tied to your NHI when you get a test, and with the payment conditional on not breaking the rules of isolation," he said.

Olsen said making the payment conditional on staying at home is a good incentive.

"If people don't isolate, then the entire community feels the heat of Level 3."

With Auckland at Alert Level 3, Infometrics is expecting a 40 per cent decrease in spending for the region as "some employers just aren't applying for the package," he said.

"Businesses are dealing with so much… It’s not my number one priority, but for the employee it is because they want to get paid," Fearnside added.