Media Centre - MEDIA RELEASE - 6th April 2020

Aid agencies must have access to further exemptions within JobKeeper legislation to stay afloat: Plan International Australia

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International aid agency Plan International Australia has welcomed lowering the income downturn threshold for charities to 15% to access JobKeeper, but warns this may not be enough to prevent aid agencies who are responding to COVID-19 from losing vital staff.

Plan International Australia CEO Susanne Legena said even with the new provision in the legislation, announced by Minister Josh Frydenberg yesterday, it remains likely many INGOs will remain ineligible due to their highly complicated funding structures.

“The Australian aid agencies on the front line of containing COVID19 in the Pacific and developing nations are being hard-hit by the economic downturn and may struggle to survive the coming months,” Ms Legena said.

“Aid agencies have very complicated funding structures, so even with yesterday’s generous announcement that the Government will lower the threshold to a 15% downturn for charities, the reality is it may not help charities like us.

“Why? For two reasons, firstly, because we receive government grants to deliver the work that do not necessarily extend to staff wages and secondly, as donations dry up, we are suffering a slower, rather than an immediate downturn, but even so the effects will be just as disastrous.

“That is why it’s absolutely crucial this new legislation, which will go to the Parliament on Wednesday, needs to exclude government grants in annual turnover, and the test for charities must be based on a projected deadline in revenue over the next 12 months.

“Our staff are absolutely vital right now, as they are on the frontline of helping the most vulnerable communities in the Pacific and fragile communities – including refugee camps – prepare for COVID-19.

“We must do everything we can to ensure we retain our workforce so that this this incredibly important work can go ahead, because there is no doubt that COVID-19 will be catastrophic in the developing world and now is our chance to get ahead of it.”

NOTES TO EDITORS

Plan International Australia is calling for the following changes that are required to ensure that charities can access JobKeeper.

  • The definition of “annual turnover” must exclude government grants and specific purpose grants.
  • The test for charities should be based on a projected decline in revenue over the next 12 months.

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