The NSW Government has announced a major $2.3 billion economic stimulus package, including $250 million for public schools and state-owned buildings to employ additional cleaners.
The package has two key components: $700 million in extra health funding and $1.6 billion in tax cuts.
NSW Health will receive $700 million extra funding to assist in doubling ICU capacity, preparing for additional COVID-19 testing, purchasing additional ventilators and medical equipment, establishing acute respiratory clinics and bringing forward elective surgeries to private hospitals.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the package bolstered the health system, cuts taxes for business that employed tens of thousands of people across the state and would help secure jobs at a very challenging time.
“Our first priority is always the health of the people of this State and looking after their families and jobs,” Berejiklian said.
As part of the package, $450 million has been allocated to waiver of payroll tax for businesses with payrolls of up to $10 million for three months (the rest of 2019-20).
The state government has allocated $56 million to bring forward the next round of payroll tax cuts by raising the threshold limit to $1 million in 2020-21 There is also $80 million to waive a range of fees and charges for small businesses including bars, cafes, restaurants and tradies
Also as part of the stimulus package, $250 million will be allocated to employ additional cleaners of public infrastructure such as transport assets, schools and other public buildings, as well as $250 million to bring forward maintenance on public assets including social housing and crown land fencing, and $500 million to bring forward capital works and maintenance.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the NSW package would help businesses struggling with a once-in-a-generation event.
“We are supporting business by lowering their costs through tax cuts and fee reductions, and working to boost jobs by funding ready-to-go capital work and maintenance projects as a priority.”
Kim Puxty, national president of industry body the Building Service Contractors Association of Australia (BSCAA) said the extra funding should be commended as a step in the right direction but cleaning supplies are still urgently needed.
“At this point in time, these funds are a welcome investment and will promote engagement of specialised cleaning of public infrastructure, this will provide a safe and hygienic environment for staff and the public,” Puxty said.
“COVID-19 has hit the cleaning industry with a huge demand for specialised and adhoc cleaning. Businesses and suppliers are working around the clock to meet these demands. At this time, cleaning contractors are struggling to get stock of PPE, appropriate chemicals and equipment as these supplies are depleted by healthcare and by the general public. Aside from additional funding, we need supply lines to be opened up in order to address these issues and ensure compliance and keep cleaners safe.”
Cleaners’ union United Workers said the extra funding for school cleaning “is too little and too late”.
Georgia Potter Butler, spokesperson for United Workers Union, said, the union has concerns about the handling by the Department of Education and Public Works of the NSW Whole of Government cleaning contract during the Covid-19 outbreak.
“Obviously the hard work of cleaners is more important than ever during times like these,” she said, adding information has not been provided on how the funding will be operationalised, or when.
“The NSW government and cleaning contractors have not increased cleaning hours at schools, provided extra personal protective equipment (PPE) to cleaners, changed chemicals (many cleaning contractors across Australia have now upgraded to hospital-grade chemicals) or provided the union with any information about what is happening during coronavirus-related shut downs.
“We are asking the NSW Government to support our claims for extra PPE (especially disposable gloves and extra cloths), hospital grade cleaning chemicals and additional cleaning hours in schools so more thorough cleaning can be done.
“The funding announced by the premier is an opportunity to right these wrongs, fix up the cleaning in our schools and bring respect back to our school cleaners – not just as a band aid solution during the coronavirus but ongoing. It can’t be a temporary solution to a problem that has been a long time coming.”
INCLEAN contacted the NSW Department of Education but did not respond prior to publication.
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