Alacazam the State Government announced a small business rescue package for 10,000 businesses to receive $10000 to assist them recover from the Covid-19 close down in May this year.
Hooray the supporters cried as the Press Release was waved around before the television cameras by the Premier. Now set and forget and hand things over to the Department of Employment, Small Business and Training. Job done, well perhaps not.
Members of the Bribie Island Business Community have recently received notice their applications for assistance have been declined or not received any response.
Business Queensland is the area within the state Department of Employment, Small Business and Training with the responsibility of administering this scheme to ensure the best outcome for Queensland taxpayers, who are ultimately providing the funds.
The objective of this program is to support small businesses subject to closure or highly impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) shutdown restrictions announced by the Queensland Government, to adapt and sustain their operations, and build resilience.
Business Queensland has advised that the program aims to see small and micro businesses:
prepare for the safe resumption of trading in the post COVID-19 recovery
continue to meet operating costs
access digital technologies to rebuild business operations and transition to a new way of doing business
respond to online opportunities, where possible, to sustain employment and maintain potential for longer-term growth
upskill and reskill business owners and staff to benefit from new technologies or business models
embrace business diversification to adapt and sustain operations
create or retain employment.
Reasons given to date for local rejections include not enough details in submissions despite limiting the grants to the first 10,000 applicants raising the urgency of completing the submission. Others include not representing sufficient value for money with no explanation why, not employing staff (other than the business owner who needs to keep trading) and not sufficiently meeting the guidelines with no explanation as to why.
The guidelines appear to be written in such a way as to make it difficult for an average small business person to succeed. The main focus of the grants was to put business online to help enterprises transition to a post Covid market. That said, submissions to create websites and upgrade IT equipment and platforms were declined. Additionally many businesses on Bribie cannot transition to online sales especially in the tourism and hospitality industry.
Factors also not considered in these submissions which were relevant included that Bribie Business is regional, serves the struggling tourism industry and is the main source of spending and therefore revenue for many other businesses on the island.
All of these factors represent the greatest danger for businesses and locals on the island in trying to recover from the current crisis but the state is tone deaf to our needs it appears. Many young people are moving into our area with the state government recently completing an extension to the Bribie Island High School based on growth demographics. It seems the left hand of state government doesn’t know what the right hand is doing in this regard by failing to support the very local businesses it expects to employ these people when they leave school.
What weight have the decision makers put on the local employment and infrastructure in the area of the applicants? How can value for money be assessed from a desk or a home office without researching local issues such as these? Unfortunately Business Queensland do not appear to explain this adequately in their spiel about how they are helping business through Covid-19, or deciding not to help as the case may be.
In June the government announced a further 10,000 grants of this nature with further fanfare. How does a business applicant re apply for the second round when they have not been given reasons why their original proposal was not considered worthy? Is this about assisting those in need or ticking all the bureaucratic boxes?
It will be interesting to see at the end of this process just how many grants are approved but by then the Premier and Minister will be announcing another magic trick to the media in their bid for re-election.