Small business owners are frustrated with the NSW government’s delivery of JobSaver as lengthy delays and changing requirements affect their access to payments amid ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.
The NSW government added new fortnightly reporting requirements to its micro-business and JobSaver programs last week, requiring businesses and their financial advisors to re-declare their eligibility for support payments every two weeks.
Meanwhile, the owner of a Sydney-based soccer coaching business, who does not want to be named, says he is still waiting to receive three rounds of fortnightly JobSaver payments.
The business owner’s JobSaver application was approved last month and he received his first fortnightly payment of about $15,000 on August 2.
Since then, however, he has not received any payments and has spent hours contacting Service NSW on the phone to discuss his case.
“We’ve been skating on the line of bankruptcy the whole time, so it’s really tough,” he tells SmartCompany.
The soccer coaching business employs 20 staff, who are a mix of casual and permanent workers, and is relying on JobSaver payments to pay their wages.
The business owner has received a variety of explanations from Service NSW about why he hasn’t received the payments. The explanations include that he was overpaid, the payment system malfunctioned and that his case had been escalated to a senior staff member.
“I’ve put all of my life savings into paying my staff, hoping that I’m going to be reimbursed for it,” he says.
“And each call that I make to Service NSW takes two hours because I’m on hold or get transferred around.”
JobSaver is a cashflow support payment for businesses that have experienced a decline in turnover of 30% or more due to the current COVID-19 restrictions.
Under the program, businesses can receive fortnightly payments of 40% of their employee headcount, up to a maximum of $100,000 per week, provided they maintain their employee headcount.
Matthew Addison, executive director of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers and chair of the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia, says Service NSW has generally delivered business support payments quickly but there have been some delays.
“We are hearing of some nuanced cases. Some of the applications that were made very early in the process seem to be lost in the system or have been caught somewhere,” Addison tells SmartCompany.
Addison recommends any business that’s waiting to receive support payments to contact either Service NSW or the Small Business Commissioner for assistance.
On Monday, Service NSW confirmed that new fortnightly reporting requirements would soon kick in for JobSaver payments and the micro-business grant.
However, pushback from business groups such as CPA Australia and the the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers led to a grace period of up to two weeks.
Addison says discussions with Service NSW have been positive, resulting in a reporting system that should be straightforward for businesses, accountants and bookkeepers to follow.
“We’ve managed to go down a natural business system approach, which means that even if a business does their billing on a monthly basis, they will be able to pro-rata the monthly turnover to each of the fortnights,” Addison says.
The fortnightly reporting requirements for the micro-business grant begins on Monday September 20, before kicking in for JobSaver from Monday September 27.
Since late July, Service NSW has approved more than 175,000 applications for JobSaver, with more than $3 billion dollars provided to businesses.
A Service NSW spokesperson said the agency has assigned 373 assessors to process applications and the average processing time is 8.7 business days.
“Service NSW has teams working seven days a week to assess applications and ensure all eligible businesses receive COVID-19 business support as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said.