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Thousands to receive wage replacements

Here's what we know about the wage subsidy scheme. Image: Getty

Thousands of Australians will receive wage replacement payments as the Australian government seeks ways to keep the economy’s engine running during the coronavirus crisis. 

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will unveil the wage replacement plan on Monday, amid speculation that stood-down workers will receive payments of up to $1,500 a fortnight under the wage subsidy plan. 

“It's critically important we maintain the connection between employers and employees because there is going to be the other side to the coronavirus," Frydenberg told the ABC this morning. 

Under the reported scheme, businesses would receive funds from the government to keep staff on the books, with staff then receiving a ‘wage’ from their employer, rather than relying on Centrelink benefits. 

However, the reported scheme is not as generous as the UK system, under which employees receive 80 per cent of their regular wages, worth up to $5,000. 

“We are not adopting the UK system. We will have an Australian system and we will have one which is based on existing tax and welfare system mechanisms, because that is really important in getting money to people as quickly as possible,” Frydenberg told Today.

He said the key is to keep businesses and workers connected to aid in the “recovery phase” and called on employers to hold off on making big decisions until the plan is unveiled. 

The announcement will come as Australia reckons with mass layoffs and thousands of staff stood down as Covid-19 lays waste to entire sectors. The two major carriers, Qantas and Virgin Australia have temporarily stood down thousands of staff, as has Myer and several major retail brands.

The unemployment wave has led to hours-long queues at Centrelink, and references to the Great Depression. 

The government has already announced $189 billion in stimulus measures, including one-off payments and a fortnightly Coronavirus Supplement payment.

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