Staff at the University of Sydney (USyd) have been denied access to the JobKeeper subsidy for organisations impacted by the economic effects of COVID-19 following a third change to the scheme by the Federal Government.
Whilst initially ineligible for the scheme in the Education Minister Dan Tehan’s “higher education relief package”, on Friday the government amended the eligibility criteria meaning universities would qualify for the payment. However, the government has now backtracked.
For all organisations there is a one-month period in which they must be able to point to a more than 50% loss in revenue when compared to the same period last year in order to be eligible for the payment.
The University initially made an application on the basis of a considerable loss of revenue from student suspensions and withdrawals in March.
Now the government has amended this rule exclusively for universities, extending the one-month period to a six-month period in order to qualify for JobKeeper, making the University ineligible to receive funding.
Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence has assured staff that staff members who received an additional top-up salary payment from the University in anticipation of the JobKeeper payment will not be asked to repay the money to the University.
In an email to staff, Spence described the situation as “a disappointing outcome” and said the University “remain[s] committed to doing everything we can to sustain the University and support our staff through this challenging period.”
The change appears to be aimed specifically at the University of Sydney, as it is the only university believed to not have had its JobKeeper eligibility hopes quashed by previous tweaks to the scheme.
The University expects a $470million loss as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.