Many small WA businesses miss out on lockdown grants

The McGowan Government will only spend about $16m on the Anzac weekend lockdown assistance grants with about 7100 small metropolitan businesses missing out on support. File picture

ABOUT half the number of small metropolitan businesses the McGowan Government said would be eligible for assistance due to the Anzac weekend lockdown have missed out on financial assistance.

On May 6 the government said an estimated 15,000 small businesses would be supported by the small business lockdown assistance grant program at a cost of about $31.8 million.

But this week the Small Business Development Corporation said just 7802 small business lockdown assistance grants for round one (Anzac weekend lockdown) had been assessed and paid with a small number of approved grants (less than 1 per cent) assessed and approved but yet to be paid as some aspect of them was still being clarified.

This means the government will only spend about $16m on the Anzac weekend lockdown grants with about 7100 small businesses missing out on support.

Opposition Treasurer and Small Business spokesman Steve Thomas said Small Business Minister Reece Whitby and Premier Mark McGowan had shown a lack of understanding of how small business functioned.

“I doubt they understand the lack of support for small business that they have demonstrated; surely if they did they would be doing it differently,’’ he said.

In the second round the government has committed $41.5m (of which about $25.7m is new money) for the grants, which are open to eligible businesses that have an Australia-wide payroll of less than $4m and are registered for GST purposes and have revenue over $75,000.

In a statement on July 19 the government said more than 15,400 businesses in Perth and Peel and 2300 businesses in regional WA could be eligible for support for the lockdown between June 29 and July 2 and the associated restriction period from July 3 to July 6.

But Dr Thomas said the government’s small business Covid compensation eligibility criteria were too restrictive and not consistent.

“Each time a shutdown is applied the compensation rules are different, and this lack of consistency makes it hard to use or understand,’’ he said.

“Many small businesses are still waiting to find out if they were successful in their application after the Anzac Day shut down, and on that precedent it will take the government months to deliver this new version.

“For the latest shut down package the government has picked winners and losers according to the industry they are in, and the government has got it absolutely and utterly wrong.

“It has excluded many businesses with genuine need and justified this on the basis of cost. “This government has more money and more capacity to support businesses in WA than any government in history, thanks to a massive windfall of iron ore royalties.’’

He said businesses that were able to demonstrate a loss and meet reasonable eligibility criteria should be supported.

A McGowan Government spokeswoman said the estimated number of eligible businesses was based upon the Australian business register data maintained by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission and was the most relevant data set for this type of modelling.

“However, not every eligible business will necessarily apply for support,’’ she said.

“In the second round of lockdown grants the criteria was expanded to include businesses outside Perth and Peel, and included a loss of revenue element.

“Due to the timing of the second lockdown, which occurred mid-week, we anticipate a higher take-up rate.’’

She said the grant program was about striking the right balance and ensuring those businesses that were impacted directly could apply.

“It is important that the highest of standards are in place when dealing with public money.’’

She said businesses with questions could contact the Small Business Development Corporation.