The Federal government yesterday announced its $130 billion JobKeeper payment designed to protect jobs as the Australian economy reels from business shutdowns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Offering $1,500 per fortnight subsidy per eligible employee, JobKeeper also applies to self-employed workers and sole traders.

The program will launch ‘in the first week of May' with payments backdated to March 30.

Businesses with turnover under $1 billion will be able to claim the payment if they can show turnover will be reduced by more than 30 per cent relative to a comparable period last year.

“We will give millions of eligible businesses and their workers a lifeline to not only get through this crisis, but bounce back together on the other side,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in announcing the package.

“This is about keeping the connection between the employer and the employee and keeping people in their jobs even though the business they work for may go into hibernation and close down for six months.

“When the economy comes back, these businesses will be able to start again and their workforce will be ready to go because they will remain attached to the business through our JobKeeper payment.”

The announcement will come as a relief to the IT industry’s independent contactors affected by the cancellation of projects and the closure of clients’ operations.

Eligible employees include casuals who have been employed more than a year, part-time staff and stood down staff.

Employees also need to be Australian citizens, permanent residents, New Zealanders covered by 444 visas or foreign workers who would be otherwise be eligible for Commonwealth benefits.

Importantly, the package does not cover employees in Australia under student, short stay or temporary work visas.

Staff who have already been laid off can claim the Job Seeker benefit and will be required to list their JobKeeper payments from employers as part of their reporting requirements.

Deducting superannuation from the payments will be at the employer’s discretion.

Business owners, sole traders and contractor can register their intention to collect the payments with the Australian Taxation office. After the program was announced at 5pm, over 60,000 businesses registered in the first night.