Greater certainty needed for wage subsidy applicants

The Government should provide greater certainty for those impacted by the early closure of the first wage subsidy round since the recent Delta outbreak, says National’s Social Development and Employment spokesperson Louise Upston.

“Many New Zealanders were wrongly told applications for the first fortnight had closed during the evening of 2 September, despite the fact 11.59pm was previously advertised as the deadline. The following morning problems with the online portal were encountered by those attempting to lodge applications.

“Yesterday I wrote to Ministers Robertson and Sepuloni requesting they allow applications for the first round to be made until Friday 17 September 2021.

“We acknowledge the Government has said applicants impacted by the error can contact the Ministry of Social Development and 430 businesses have done so to date.

“However, the Government should publicise what steps are undertaken when applicants phone the Ministry of Social Development. It is important this process is consistent and fair for everyone.

“Second, the Government should make clear that businesses impacted by the early closure will not be disadvantaged.

“Just saying ‘phone the Ministry of Social Development’ does not provide any assurance to anxious businesses and their employees their application will be accepted.     

“Finally, I have asked that businesses be allowed to apply for the first round until 17 September, regardless of whether the early closure of applications impacted a business or not.

“National MPs have been inundated with inquiries from businesses confused about the timing of when applications can be made.

“Understandably, the Delta outbreak meant a sudden move to lockdown. That also meant a need for businesses to get to grips with new requirements the Government added to the wage subsidy scheme.

“New businesses had no prior experience with the scheme at all and some needed more time to ensure their revenue decrease met the criteria.

“It is only fair in these circumstances that a grace period is provided. New Zealanders shouldn’t miss out for the first fortnight the whole country was at alert level four.

“Through a combination of Government mistakes, the speed of the lockdown and issues with the application portal, many have been left in an uncertain and stressful position.

“The fact that businesses had proactively phoned the MSD this week shows a sizeable number of people were impacted by the Government’s error alone.

“I look forward to the Government’s response to National’s request. New Zealanders deserve a fair go from their Government in these difficult and unprecedented times.”