New Zealand companies repay COVID-19 subsidies exceeding NZ$536 million
New Zealand companies have so far repaid over NZ$536 million (US$390.1 million) to the government.
As of mid-December, the Ministry of Social Development has received the payback of the COVID-19 relief wage subsidy handed out to fledgling businesses earlier last year.
The wage subsidy scheme was first announced last March to protect jobs due to the ravages of the pandemic. However, companies that were handing out multimillion-dollar bonuses and dividends soon faced mounting pressures by politicians to return the funds.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke out against companies that benefited from the subsidies, yet handed out large bonuses and recorded a profit in 2020.
This includes firms like Ryman Healthcare, New Zealand’s largest retirement village operator, which paid NZ$44 million (US$32 million) in dividends for the first-half of 2020 after receiving NZ$14.2 million (US$10.33 million) in wage subsidies.
Throughout the subsidy programme, New Zealand disbursed about NZ$14 billion (US$10.19 billion) to some 750,000 companies.
A survey by New Zealand news media website Stuff also found that about half of the companies listed on the NZX 50 index had not used the wage subsidy handouts.