It would provide eligible companies with A$1,500 (£743) every two weeks for six months for each employee. Any business or not-for-profit organisation that lost 30 percent of its revenue can apply.
Australians who have already lost their jobs will be eligible for the payments via their former employer.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it provided an “incentive” for businesses to continue working and retain staff, as well as bounce back when the crisis has passed.
He said in a televised news conference: “We must have a running economy to get through this. This is an incentive to keep people on, doing actual work … they can keep them on the books on the payrolls.”
Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise ombudsman Kate Carnell welcomed the package and told the Canberra Times: “Crucially, it will allow small businesses to continue trading and paying their staff.
“It will also ensure small businesses stay connected with their staff, who have been stood down, so they can re-engage their team when trading conditions return to normal.”
Although Australia has one of the lowest numbers of coronavirus infections globally, officials have warned against complacency.
About 4,200 people have tested positive for the virus, with 18 deaths. New restrictions have been introduced by the government limiting public gatherings to just two people and shutting down outdoor parks, playgrounds and gyms.
Several states are bringing in penalties for those who flout the new rules, including fines of up to A$1,600 and a potential jail term as long as six months.
The deputy chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, said: “This is not a time to take the foot off the brake.”