How the economic stimulus will help pharmacy

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Elements of today’s economic stimulus package will directly benefit community pharmacy businesses… and also help prevent presenteeism, say pharmacy groups

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the Federal Government’s $17.6 billion plan to manage the economic fallout of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, on Thursday.

The plan includes stimulus payments to households receiving income support such as the pension, Family Tax Benefit and Newstart Allowance.

It also includes assistance for regions which have been disproportionately affected by the virus’s impact, such as those heavily reliant on sectors such as tourism and agriculture.

Eligible small and medium businesses will also receive significant support, the PM said.

Beginning Thursday 12 March, these measures include an investment of $700 million to increase the instant asset write off threshold from $30,000 to $150,000 and expand access to include businesses with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million (up from $50 million) until 30 June 2020.

They also include $3.2 billion to support business investment by providing a time-limited 15-month investment incentive (through to 30 June 2021) to support business investment and economic growth over the short term, by accelerating depreciation deductions.

Businesses with a turnover of less than $500 million will be able to deduct an additional 50% of the asset cost in the year of purchase.

The PM said that these measures will support more than 3.5 million businesses (over 99% of businesses) employing more than 9.7 million employees or three in every four workers. The measures are designed to support business sticking with investment they had planned, and encouraging them to bring investment forward to support economic growth over the short term.

The Government will also introduce cash flow assistance for businesses, including a boost of up to $25,000, with a minimum payment of $2,000 for eligible small and medium-sized businesses.

The payment is designed to provide cash flow support to businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million that employ staff, between 1 January 2020 and 30 June 2020. The payment will be tax free.

This measure will flow to around 690,000 businesses employing around 7.8 million people. Businesses will receive payments of 50% of their Business Activity Statements or Instalment Activity Statement from 28 April with refunds to then be paid within 14 days.

There will also be $1.3 billion to support small businesses to support the jobs of around 120,000 apprentices and trainees. Eligible employers can apply for a wage subsidy of 50% of the apprentice’s or trainee’s wage for up to nine months from 1 January 2020 to 30 September 2020.

Both the Pharmacy Guild and the PSA welcomed the package, with the Guild saying it will be of direct benefit to pharmacy businesses.

“This is a very timely and necessary move by the Government at a time when many community pharmacies – along with other businesses across the economy – are feeling stress and facing challenges thrown up by the onset of COVID-19,” said national president George Tambassis.

“We welcome the measures that have been announced because they will directly support Australia’s 5,700 community pharmacies and the more than 60,000 staff directly employed in the industry.”

PSA national president Associate Professor Chris Freeman said that on the back of the previously announced health package to combat COVID-19, the economic stimulus will help support pharmacies and pharmacists during the outbreak.

“A significant number of pharmacies around Australia will be eligible for the grant at the maximum level which will allow them to continue to support their workforce and continue to provide an invaluable service to the community,” he said.

“As frontline health professionals, pharmacists will continue to play a key role during COVID-19 and the influenza season and these measures announced today will provide important stimulus to many pharmacies to continue to provide much needed healthcare to their patients.

PSA also welcomed the measure of abolishing waiting periods for social security sickness payments for casual workers, who may miss shifts because they contract coronavirus or are asked to self-isolate, calling this move “pragmatic”.

“This measure will not only financially support those who are sick or in isolation, but also reduce the likelihood of people who are unwell attending work,” A/Prof Freeman said.

“This is particularly important in the health sector, where many frontline health professionals and support staff are employed on a casual basis.”

PSA said it will continue to work with the Government and provide details to the profession of these initiatives.

“Support for the profession, including the announcement yesterday of funding for home medicine services and electronic prescriptions together with today’s business and social security measures are essential to ensure pharmacists can continue their crucial role protecting Australians.”

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