ACT volunteer firefighters are still yet to receive compensation for income lost while fighting Australia's bushfires.
The association representing Canberra's volunteer firefighters has lashed the ACT government for the delay, saying those left out of pocket by the summer emergency desperately needed the money amid the COVID-19 crisis.
While only six volunteers have so far signed up to access the payment, Volunteer Brigades Association president John-Paul Romano said more would have sought support had the application system not been so complex.
Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman said the ACT government had started processing applications and volunteers should expect payments to arrive "very shortly".
Volunteers who were self-employed or worked for small to medium private businesses would be eligible for up to $300 per day - up to a maximum of $6000 - provided they had been called away for at least 10 days in this financial year.
The Morrison government first agreed to the scheme with NSW government in late December, before extending the offer to other jurisdictions, including the ACT.
While the Commonwealth funds the scheme, the states and territories are responsible for administering the payments to their volunteers.
The federal government has spent $10.7 million in compensation payments for volunteers as of May, according to Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet figures supplied to a senate committee looking into the handling of the horror fire season.
On Thursday, Mr Gentleman confirmed that none of that money had yet flown through to ACT Rural Fire Service or SES volunteers, despite the federal government funding being available as far back as March.
He deferred questions about the reason for the delayed payments to new Emergency Service Agency deputy commissioner Ray Johnson.
Commissioner Johnson said it decided in March to call for expressions of interest from volunteers who wanted to access the payment. About 12 volunteers signaled interest in receiving compensation, he said.
Commissioner Johnson said it took until early May to set up the online application system. He said it needed time to develop a system that would be easy for volunteers to access, but would ensure the correct amounts were paid.
"Yes, we want to make sure the payments are made as speedily as possible, but we also want to make sure the payments are accurate," he said.
Mr Romano said the arrival of the payments would come "far too late".
"If you needed the money as a small-business owner in the summer, then you definitely need the money now because of COVID-19," he said.
Mr Romano said the application process, which required volunteers to detail each day of deployment and service in the past year, was far too complicated. He said a better model would be to simply ask volunteers to sign a statutory declaration which showed the number of days they had been called out.
Mr Romano, who was called away from his small business in Manuka throughout the fire season, was among the dozen ACT volunteers to respond to the expression of interest. He has yet to make an application.
Mr Gentleman joined commissioner Johnson at the helicopter base in Hume on Thursday to announce $480,000 worth of fast-tracked infrastructure upgrades for the Emergency Services Agency.
Two new helipads are under construction at Hume, at a cost of $220,000. The media room at the agency's Fairbarn headquarters is receiving a $260,000 upgrade.
Mr Gentleman said the need for the upgrades had been identified in reviews following Canberra's summer bushfire season.
The upgrades are among the $25 million worth of infrastructure projects being fast-tracked by the ACT government to keep the local construction sector ticking over amid the COVID-19 crisis.
"These are dollars well invested in the ACT, creating jobs for Canberrans and keeping Canberrans safe," he said.