The estimated cost of Australia’s JobKeeper payment scheme has been downgraded by a massive $60 billion, with Treasury and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) today revealing a reporting error wrongly forecast millions of extra workers would seek the support payment.

In the industry, this is what we call a bruh moment.

Treasury and the ATO said the multi-billion dollar error was due to roughly 1,000 businesses incorrectly filling out applications for the payment.

“Over 500 businesses with ‘1’ eligible employee reported a figure of ‘1,500’ (which is the amount of JobKeeper payment they would expect to receive for each fortnight for that employee),” the groups said in today’s joint media release.

That reporting anomaly initially led Treasury and the ATO to believe some 6.5 million Australian workers would be eligible for the payment, which was designed to keep folks on their company’s payroll during the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, they estimate around 3.5 million workers will eventually be covered by the JobKeeper scheme.

In late March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the scheme will cost a stonking $130 billion.

“Treasury’s revised estimate of the cost of the JobKeeper program is around $70 billion,” today’s statement said.

Luckily, no monstrous piles of cash were delivered to businesses who wrongly stuck their hand out, as the JobKeeper payment is contingent on employers coughing up each and every eligible employee’s tax file number.

“By contrast, the only use of the information collected in respect of the reporting error was to provide an early estimate of the number of expected employees likely to access the JobKeeper program,” the statement said.

Still. Whoops.

Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers is already on the government’s case, saying they “seriously stuffed-up” the program with a “humiliating” error.

Whether this unthinkably huge windfall is used to extend the payment, either in scope or duration, is yet to be seen.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is on the record as saying JobKeeper, and JobSeeker, the payment for Aussies out of work, are both “temporary and targeted” measures “not designed to go forever but to build a bridge to the recovery phase.”

But the possibilities are endless when you suddenly find yourself with $60 billion burning a hole through your pocket.

Image: Lukas Coch / AAP Image