As the ACT enters its seventh week of COVID lockdown, just shy of 4000 outstanding support grants are yet to be processed for struggling businesses, with the Chief Minister largely blaming poorly submitted paperwork.
But ACT Liberal senator Zed Seselja says the ACT government is responsible for the delay, and businesses fighting to survive are being let down.
"Canberrans deserve better. I'm hearing from desperate businesses who have heard nothing but crickets from the ACT government, despite applying weeks ago now," he said.
"This needs to be fixed urgently."
The jointly funded Commonwealth-ACT scheme to support local businesses has now been operating for about a month, with a team of about 100 people in the ACT processing more than 8600 applications.
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Businesses can apply for grants of up to $30,000, depending on their turnover figures.
"So we'll cross over 4000 payments being approved today - that's the advice I have - and the value of approved payments will cross over $60 million," Mr Barr said on Friday.
The precise figure released late Friday is 4132 payments approved and $66 million paid. Less than 1 per cent (136) of the applications were declined because they were not eligible, according to Mr Barr.
But 3987 support grant applications are outstanding, with 2717 currently being assessed and 1270 cases of businesses needing to send more information to the assessors.
The number of applications needing more information has halved since the scheme started, a shift Mr Barr called "significant progress".
But it's not more staff the ACT government says it needs to process the payments. In fact, Mr Barr says it's better filled out forms.
"We need complete applications," the Chief Minister said.
"There's about 400 that were launched on the first day and that haven't yet been paid, and they are mostly because we don't have the information that's required to make the payment.
"They been advised repeatedly by email and often by phone call."
Mr Barr said some of the reasons for the slow progress have been grants team emails getting caught in spam filters, incorrect bank details and incorrect ABNs.
Senator Seselja says it's not good enough.
"It has become clear the Chief Minister is very good at locking Canberra down, but is ineffectual at dealing with the challenges this creates for many in the community," he told The Canberra Times.
"Over half of Commonwealth COVID-19 Disaster Payments are received the same day a Canberran submits their application for support, with more than $188 million delivered so far throughout this lockdown."
The ACT government set 30 days as the timeframe for payment, and it has just passed 22 working days since the scheme opened, according to the Chief Minister.
"So this is a challenge for every state and territory," he said.
"And the reason is that a business grants scheme like this, which is the largest grant scheme ever in the ACT's history, is not the most administratively efficient way to deliver support to businesses, because it requires an application and assessment process."
Mr Barr again suggested a reinstatement of the federal government's $90 billion JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme would have been a more efficient way of supporting business during the pandemic, as the federal government already has businesses' bank and ABN details on hand.
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