The Premier must commit to a full review of the government’s Small Business Hardship Grant program to ensure a level playing field for all Tasmanian small businesses
Labor Leader Rebecca White said the program must also be reopened to those who have missed out on support even though COVID-19 restrictions have caused them great hardship.
“When Peter Gutwein first announced the grants program in March, he said grants would be available to all small businesses suffering financial hardship as a result of COVID-19,” Ms White said.
“But numerous businesses have contacted Labor describing a shambolic process, which has added stress at a time when they were already facing pain and uncertainty, and ended with them missing out on crucial support.
“Paul Dimmick, the owner of Huon Bush Retreats, has seen his business grind to a halt because of the COVID-19 restrictions, has no income, and is continuing to incur more than $1,200 a week in standing costs.
“Yet, as with numerous other businesses that have contacted us, Paul applied for the $15,000 hardship grant, was told to get the application in before the closing date, and was informed that grants would be allocated on merit.
“But the Minister Sarah Courtney announced on 27 April that 167 businesses had already been paid $15,000 before the program had closed.
“This process was flawed and unfair because there is no way the government could have assessed all businesses on merit when some received funding before the program had even closed.
“Despite the enormous impact on his business and livelihood, Paul was told he was only entitled to the lesser amount of $4,000, even though other businesses that have continued to operate throughout the crisis have received the full $15,000.
Huon Bush Retreats now faces the prospect of using all its cash reserves to stay afloat and being swamped with $50,000 debt.
“We’ve heard too many stories like this from Tasmanian business people doing it very tough. The government owes them a full explanation and a commitment to fully review this flawed and inequitable process.
As well as a full review, Peter Gutwein must reopen the grant program to those who missed out despite suffering significant hardship.
“Labor has always supported these programs but the allocation of funds must be fair and equitable so that Tasmania’s small business owners and their employees can get back on their feet and be a part of the state’s recovery.”
Rebecca White MP