Labor has criticised the Berejiklian-Barilaro Government for failing to provide comprehensive and consistent assistance packages for small businesses recovering from Cyclone Debbie in March 2017.
Category C funding only started flowing to small businesses nearly 6 months after the declaration of the natural disaster and application forms were so confusing that those who were not assisted by the Small Business Commissioner’s team may not have known they were eligible to claim.
Businesses had to provide significant paperwork on their financial situation, even where their computers and other financial documentation had been washed away or damaged in the floods.
Small businesses in some areas were eligible for $15,000 in funding, some were eligible for $10,000 and others were eligible for nothing. Some were given grants of $25,000. Businesses across the border in Queensland were eligible for $25,000.
In Budget Estimates hearings at Parliament House today, neither the Minister nor the Small Business Commissioner could provide an adequate answer as to why the funding differed between regions nor why it was so slow to flow after Category C Funding was announced.
Shadow Minister for Small Business, Jenny Aitchison MP visited Murwillumbah and Lismore last week, and spoke to a number of small businesses who have raised a number of concerns about the lack of a consistent approach to assistance by the Government.
Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for Small Business Jenny Aitchison
“So many small business owners on the North Coast are still suffering the after effects of the cyclone and subsequent flooding. Some have only just got back on their feet, and others are hitting the wall after waiting in vain for a response to their applications, or finding their areas were not eligible.”
“The Government should have stood by small businesses in their time of crisis right through to recovery. As key employers in these coastal and regional communities they should have been paid some assistance to get their businesses back up and running, not left to wait months while bureaucratic processes took their toll.”