Australia’s JobKeeper program was created in March of last year to provide assistance to businesses during COVID-19. The goal was to help those entities cover their payrolls. It may have also helped casino operator Crown Resorts cover its mounting penalties and to pay shareholder dividends.
This past Tuesday, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) published data on which companies received JobKeeper funds.
Coming in at second place for the most money received was Crown. The company reportedly received AU$92.9 million (US$66.35 million) in the 2020 fiscal year. It then collected another AU$198.3 million (US$141.66 million) in the 2021 fiscal year.
Crown and Others Receive Financial Handouts
Crown was forced to close the doors of its casinos for long periods in 2020. Therefore, requesting financial assistance if available wouldn’t be unrealistic. However, the company also paid out millions to executives during the time frame. Data compiled by The New Daily also showed Crown also paid shareholder dividends.
JobKeeper went to French and Italian billionaires, to executive bonuses, and to hedge funds and investment banks,” Member of Parliament Dr. Andrew Leigh stated.
Jeremy Hirschhorn, a commissioner with the Australian Taxation Office, hopes company owners and operators will use the money as it was intended. However, comments made this week are likely to ring hollow.
“In relation to the newer stimulus measures, please access them and use the proceeds to invest in your business. But also think twice if your plan is to access them simply to pay bigger dividends or executive bonuses,” Hirschhorn said.
Crown Not Alone
To be fair to Crown and the hundreds of millions of dollars it now has to pay for various reasons, the company wasn’t the only one to take advantage of the program. Qantas, the major airline, broke the bank with its take. It reportedly took in $856 million (US$611.35 million) during JobKeeper’s run.
The Star Entertainment Group received $157 million (US112.17 million).
Qantas claims it had 30,179 employees in 2019. During the pandemic, it was forced to ground a significant portion of its workforce. It had 22,000 employees in August of this year, as it still cut back on its operations.
Crown claims it employs around 20,000. This has likely changed as it looks to stay alive in the face of continued scrutiny across the country. Star Entertainment reportedly has around 8,000 employees.
More Conditions for Future JobKeeper Funds Likely
In retrospect, the Australian government could have managed JobKeeper better. It would make sense that lawmakers are now storing away bits of data that can be used if the program, or one similar to it, is introduced again.
Australia’s official numbers claim over $27 billion (US$19.3 billion) was handed out to companies that reported increasing sales during the first six months of the JobKeeper program. That is 38% of the first $70 billion ($50 billion) handed out.
In reviewing the data, certain lawmakers, figureheads, and more now want some of the recipients of JobKeeper funds to repay the money. At the very least, they should give back any portion not used to cover wages, according to the lawmakers.
That isn’t likely to happen, as the program didn’t stipulate that as a condition of receiving the money. There is also no law on the books that would require restitution, despite plenty of government bailouts being given previously. Those points will likely be taken into consideration with any future financing programs.
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