Half-a-billion dollars of grants not getting to small businesses: Saffin

LISMORE MP Janelle Saffin is urging small businesses across her electorate to apply for the NSW Government’s $10,000 COVID-19 support grants, but says that the 75 per cent downturn criteria is far too tough.

Friday, May 22, 2020.

LISMORE MP Janelle Saffin is urging small businesses across her electorate to apply for the NSW Government’s $10,000 COVID-19 support grants, but says that the 75 per cent downturn criteria is far too tough.

The bar is too high, and needs to be lowered immediately, according to Ms Saffin.

Ms Saffin said the June 1 deadline to apply is too soon and needs to be extended, until at least the remaining $501 million allocated for the scheme is expended.

“The Government has ‘dropped the ball’ with $501 million of a promised $750-million budget left unspent despite small businesses suffering the sharpest downturn since the Great Depression,” Ms Saffin said.

“In April this year, the Government announced that 75,000 small businesses in New South Wales who don’t pay payroll tax could ask for a $10,000 grant, which sounded great at the time.

“It is estimated that more than 80 per cent of small businesses with between one and 19 employees in the Lismore Electorate do not pay payroll tax.

“However, the Government set the bar too high for small businesses by insisting that they had to show a 75-per cent downturn because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Minister for Small Business Damian Tudehope MLC now should adopt Victoria’s much simpler rules of a having to show a 30-per cent downturn, akin to JobKeeper.

“This Government still has time to correct the scheme’s shortcomings and get the money out the door to struggling small businesses on the ground.”

Treasury officials told a Parliamentary hearing in Sydney yesterday (Thursday, May 21) that:

  • The Government only received 34,000 applications for the COVID-19 grant from hundreds of thousands of businesses not paying payroll tax.
  • Service NSW has distributed just $249 million of the $750 million budgeted, with 25,000 small businesses obtaining grants.

Ms Saffin has joined NSW Shadow Minister for Finance and Small Business Daniel Mookey MLC and NSW Shadow Treasurer Walt Secord MLC in calling on the Government to keep the scheme open until the $750 million is fully spent.

“So while I have reservations about how effective this scheme has been to date, I still urge local small businesses to apply because there is $501 million sitting there going to waste,” Ms Saffin said.

Eligible small businesses can apply for the grant online through Service NSW —   www.service.nsw.gov.au going to the website’s COVID-19 assistance page or by telephoning 137 788.

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