UP to 500 Wagga businesses and organisations have lost access to JobKeeper wage subsidies and there are fears that businesses reliant on tourism are at risk of collapse after the $130 billion program ended on Sunday.
The final stage of JobKeeper was paying employers $1000 per fortnight for every full-time worker or $650 for every part-time worker if the business's turnover had declined during the coronavirus pandemic.
Centrelink data suggests that Wagga's unemployment rate has been dropping but remains 35 per cent higher than before the pandemic, with just over 3000 people receiving welfare in February.
Riverina MP and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the Australian economy was "graduating" from the temporary JobKeeper measure and jobs were "coming back in the tens of thousands".
"It is time to move from subsidising employees to encouraging spending in the economy to get more people into jobs," he said.
"The number of JobKeeper applications is coming down, which shows more people getting back into the workforce.
"Our Economic Recovery Plan includes a range of stimulus measures, including personal income tax cuts, the JobMaker Hiring Credit, half-price tourism tickets, HomeBuilder and apprentice schemes."
Wagga's 2650 postcode, which also includes areas such as Bomen, Collingullie and Downside, recorded a 29 per cent drop in businesses applying for JobKeeper between December and January.
However, 528 businesses registered in Wagga's postcode were still using the JobKeeper scheme in January, compared to the NSW average of 214 per postcode.
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Business NSW Murray-Riverina regional manager Anthony McFarlane said he "certainly does have concerns for tourism, hospitality and the visitor economy" after JobKeeper ends.
"Without JobKeeper government support, 42 per cent of surveyed tourism businesses said their would be forced to reduce headcount and 53 per cent are expected to reduce hours," he said.
"Another concern that came out of our survey was a third of tourism business anticipate they may have to close temporarily or permanently after JobKeeper."
Labor duty Senator for the Riverina, Deborah O'Neill, said 1780 businesses and 5478 workers in the Riverina were "at risk".
"If you cut JobKeeper you cut jobs. It's that simple. [PM] Scott Morrison and [Mr] McCormack have refused to listen to the Riverina community," she said.
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