The scheme provides a subsidy for businesses to keep paying eligible staff, but the subsidy is provided in arrears, meaning it’s only a realistic option for businesses that can find the cash upfront.
“We’ve been operating for nearly 38 years, teaching students adaptability and resilience through experiences from camping to mountain climbing. We’ve been through some challenges, but never anything close to this,” says executive director Richard Thornton.
“Some of our venues were badly hit by bushfire over summer and we’d worked really hard to relocate programs so they could go ahead. We moved one program only for the new venue to be flooded, and then this. The first calls from schools concerned they may have to cancel bookings came in March. Soon we had 50 cancellations in one week. All up now nearly 80 of our programs have been cancelled and nearly 200 are postponed. We’re pretty good at working through a crisis, but this came as a huge blow.”
OEG started the year with about 400 staff, including casuals. In some of the towns where they operate programs, they are the biggest employer.
“We were pretty excited when we heard about JobKeeper,” Richard says. “Then we realised we’d have to pay staff the $1500 per fortnight upfront, taking on the risk of them not being eligible for the subsidy.”
Risk aside, without programs running, OEG simply did not have the cashflow to make those upfront payments, so they looked to CommBank for help.