09 April 2020: JobKeeper legislation may not help large charities: other measures urgently required for those responding to COVID-19

International aid agency Plan International Australia has issued a plea to the Government to enact a range of vital measures to ensure large aid agencies are able to deliver life-saving COVID-19 prevention and response programs. 

The JobKeeper legislation, passed last night, will not include special amendments that make it more accessible to larger charities with complicated funding structures, casting doubt on whether INGOs will be able to access the benefits to keep afloat. 

Plan International Australia CEO Susanne Legena said while this result is disappointing, there were a range of other measures the Federal Government can implement in the short-term to provide relief.

These include:

  • Introduce tax breaks for individuals who are in a position to donate to charities, including a tax deduction of 150% for the rest of the financial year. 
  • Lift the Cap For Fringe Benefit Tax to Help Charity Employees. This will help alleviate the impact on staff wages in the reduction of employee hours as donations fall.
  • Introduce a $300 million Australian Charities Stabilisation Fund, including the provision of flexible grants over at least the next 6 months of a value of between $20,000 and $100,000 which are rapidly assessed by the Commonwealth. 
  • A fully flexible, 0% Government loan facility for charities.

“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,” Ms Legena said.

“JobKeeper is a fantastic initiative but unfortunately it remains to be seen whether this will be accessible for larger charities – like Plan International Australia - who have very complicated funding structures and may not meet the 15% downturn threshold. Unfortunately, important revisions to the JobKeeper legislation that would have enabled us to access this did not pass last night.  

“Our staff are absolutely vital right now. These people are on the frontline of helping the most vulnerable communities in the Pacific and fragile communities – including refugee camps - prepare for COVID-19. We will need more support to be able to deliver this support, particularly if we cannot pay our staff. 

“That’s why we are calling for a range of measures the Government can implement in the short to medium term to help us to stay afloat during this incredibly difficult time. These include interest free loans, tax breaks for Australians who wish to donate to our appeals and giving our staff tax breaks to help them get by. We truly hope that our calls for assistance will be heard loud and clear.”