Several NZ dioceses join wage subsidy scheme

Auckland Diocese

Several New Zealand Catholic dioceses have taken up the Government’s Wage Subsidy Scheme to help pay staff.

As of April 24, at least three New Zealand dioceses had joined the scheme, with the total support being given amounting to $1.22 million.

According to a public register with some search capacity on the Ministry of Social Development website, Auckland Catholic diocese had received $625,368 for 95 employees, Hamilton diocese had received $165,880 for 24 employees and Wellington archdiocese received $428,628 for 65 employees.

Christchurch diocesan general manager Andy Doherty told NZ Catholic on April 21 that Christchurch diocese had not applied for the subsidy at that point.

This was “firstly because we didn’t meet the criteria initially and secondly, ideally, we will survive without using this generous offer”.

“We will reassess this position as a diocese month by month.”

Mr Doherty added that individual parishes in Christchurch diocese “have applied directly, and that has proven to be very beneficial to each parish and was processed promptly by the government organisation, which is appreciated”.

Many parishes throughout the country have done likewise.

Palmerston North diocese general manager Tony Murphy told NZ Catholic on April 22 that his diocese had not applied for the subsidy up to that point.

“We are constantly reviewing our current position and may still apply,” Mr Murphy said.

“I am aware a couple of our parishes have made application, but the numbers are very small.”

Auckland diocese general manager James van Schie told Stuff that the wage subsidy helped provide “certainty for staff during this uncertain time”.

He said the diocese was topping up the subsidy so that staff received their full pay.

Dunedin’s Catholic diocese was not on the register, but the Dunedin Anglican diocese was.

The Anglican Diocese of Auckland had received $718,123 in subsidy for 109 employees.

According to a Radio New Zealand article on April 17, the total bill for the wage subsidy scheme across all qualifying organisations had reached $10 billion. Some 85,000 businesses had been processed up to that stage and 1.6 million people were receiving this support.

The scheme is open to all businesses (including the self-employed, contractors and sole traders), registered charities, incorporated societies and post-settlement governance entities, that are adversely affected by Covid-19.

The scheme subsidises full-time employees at $585.80 gross per week and part-time employees at $350.00 gross per week. The employer must keep paying at normal rates or at least 80 per cent of income where reasonably possible. The subsidy is paid in a lump sum and employers are required to keep staff on for the 12 weeks of work that the scheme subsidises.

Businesses are eligible for the subsidy where they have experienced a 30 per cent decline in actual or predicted revenue related to Covid-19.

Before receiving a subsidy, they must take active steps to manage the implications of Covid-19 on their businesses.

[Bullet point] Mr van Schie told NZ Catholic that several measures have been put in place to help parishes in Auckland diocese.

Parishes were told that they were not obliged to make payment of their 15 per cent levy / allocations (diocesan tax) from parish and house accounts for a three-month period (March, April and May).

Also, in consultation with the chair of the Parish Finance Committee, parish priests and administrators in Auckland diocese parishes are granted the authority to transfer funds from the parish account / Catholic Development Fund (CDF) to the house account if the house account is running out of money.

And Bishop Patrick Dunn can provide support and assistance in Auckland diocese to needy parishes and priests that become financially distressed during this period. Parishes have been told that they or the priest should be in touch with the bishop or diocesan general manager if they need help.

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Michael Otto

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