Almost 1000 Hunter and Central Coast retail workers lost their jobs last week as the regions' economies ground to a halt due to COVID-19.
Figures provided by the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association show 665 jobs were lost in the space of a few days in the Hunter and 300 on the Central Coast.
The figures include employees from Myer, which closed for a month from last night, but not those working at retailers Cue and Veronica Maine and Kathmandu, which have also temporarily closed.
In addition, David Jones has announced the partial closure of some stores.
"Those figures are going to get a lot higher next week," Newcastle branch secretary of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association Barbara Nebart said.
The federal government announced on Sunday that people who lose their jobs will be given a wage subsidy to guarantee a share of their income.
The subsidy, which will pay workers as much as 80 per cent of their wages, may be transferred directly from employers to staff as an alternative to using the welfare system.
The scheme is expected to have a cap on the total income to be paid, while the percentage of income covered is yet to be decided.
The move to a wage subsidy is a significant shift for the federal government in response to criticism from Labor, the unions and industry groups which called for more generous income support for workers.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the details of the the plan required more time to be finalised.
"Anyone can have an idea about that but converting that into an actual deliverable program that can reach millions of people is a very complicated exercise and that is the work we are engaged in doing," he said.
"The package would support those who have more recently been the victims of these closures that have taken place, and we will be seeking to support people involved in those closures, but we will advise further details of the starting point about that."
Central Coast Labor senator Deborah O'Neill called on the government to introduce the subsidy as quickly as possible.
"We are talking about hundreds of people every day losing all of their security. They still have rates to pay, they still have rent to pay they still have mortgages to pay," she said.
"The government needs to get this right but they need to be acting with more urgency because people are desperate and the anxiety is rising and the fact that they are not getting money until the end of April is putting all sorts of pressure on hard working Australians who have been doing the right thing by going to work everyday and looking after their families."
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