Small Business Minister Sarah Courtney has stressed that the state government’s new business grants program won’t encounter the same problems as the previous support package.
The government was hit with criticism in relation to the rollout of its small business hardship grants, designed to assist businesses struggling with the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis.
A $20 million small business sustainability and recovery package was announced recently, to complement a previous $60 million package.
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The administration of the controversial small business hardship grants – part of the original program – provoked anger and frustration from some businesses.
Some were left blindsided by the refusal of their applications due to the fact that they believed they met the relevant eligibility criteria, while others raised concerns over some businesses receiving the grants before the round had closed.
Ms Courtney said she had attended a number of small business roundtables across the state and that feedback from those had informed the design of the new grants.
“We’re very hopeful that [these grants] are going to be able to target those businesses that are still continuing to be impacted,” she said. “We’ve also insured that there are more businesses that are eligible to be able to apply.
“We’ve got an independent panel that will assess those grants once they have closed.
“For the first grant round that we did have, it was really important at that time to get money out the door quickly. “
An additional $2 million has been allocated to implement a second round of the government’s small business continuity grant program, which will open at 12pm on Monday. It will offer $750 grants for eligible small businesses to engage accountants and financial planners to help advise them on how best to weather the economic storm brought on by the pandemic.
For the first grant round that we did have, it was really important at that time to get money out the door quickly.
Sarah Courtney, Small Business Minister
Launceston’s Cheveux Bridal was one small business that successfully applied through the first round of the continuity grants.
Owner Michelle Tedeschi said the grant helped her business navigate “unknown territory”.
“I used my grant in engaging an accountant to plan out for me the best strategy forward,” she said.
“It couldn’t have been more helpful.”
Labor small business spokeswoman Anita Dow welcomed the additional funding but said the government had “moved the goal posts” halfway through the initial “flawed round” of business hardship grants.
“We hope the flaws of the original small business program will be avoided in this new round, with a commitment that applications will not be assessed before the program closes,” she said. “This contributed to inequitable outcomes in the original round of grants.”
“We hope, too, that oversight by an independent panel will ensure a fairer outcome from the assessment process.”
Tasmanian Small Business Council chief executive Robert Mallett said the criteria for the new raft of grants the government had introduced were “much more clearly identified and … enunciated”.
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