Fish D'vine owner Kevin Collins.
Fish D'vine owner Kevin Collins.

Why some Whitsunday businesses can’t claim COVID-19 grant

SOME of the region's hardest hit businesses do not qualify for a COVID-19 grant program, sparking calls for a change in the criteria.

The State Government's Small Business COVID-19 Adaption Grant Program aims to help businesses impacted by the coronavirus shutdowns to adapt and sustain their operations.

As of Friday, 100 per cent of funds allocated to southeast Queensland were taken up, compared to only 57 per cent for regional Queensland's allocation.

Fish D'Vine restaurant in Airlie Beach is one of the businesses that is ineligible for the grant program because the criteria states businesses must have fewer than 20 employees.

Owner Kevin Collins said this meant many hospitality and tourism businesses affected by COVID-19 in Mackay and the Whitsundays could not access the support.

"The tourism and hospitality industry is very labour intensive - even a small tourism operation employs a lot of people," Mr Collins said.

"We're employing 40 staff, so it strikes me as strange that those businesses who are trying to re-engage staff don't get this help.

"Because the program has been under used in regional Queensland, it may be time for the government to revisit the criteria."

Kevin Collins owns Fish D’Vine and Rum Bar in Airlie Beach.
Kevin Collins owns Fish D’Vine and Rum Bar in Airlie Beach.

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Mr Collins said the grant of between $2000 and $10,000 could have helped the business update its website.

LNP Whitsunday candidate Amanda Camm said the funding criteria did not consider that many small operators had to put on more staff to meet new COVID-19 restrictions.

"The State Government needs to review the eligibility criteria and ensure those businesses, particularly across hospitality and tourism in the Whitsundays, are able to access that funding," she said.

"At the moment, every dollar counts."

Ms Camm said it would be a shame if the funds that weren't used in regional Queensland were offered to southeast Queensland businesses instead.

Whitsunday LNP candidate Amanda Camm. Picture: Melanie Whiting
Whitsunday LNP candidate Amanda Camm. Picture: Melanie Whiting

Small Business Minister Shannon Fentiman said many regional businesses had already applied for the program.

"More than 320 applications have been submitted by small businesses in the Whitsunday Local Government Area and we encourage more to apply," Ms Fentiman said.

"Never before has this amount of support been made available to businesses in the Whitsunday region."

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She said the State Government had also introduced a raft of other business support measures including energy rebates, its Back to Work program and $950 million in payroll tax relief.

"Additionally, most businesses will get a two-month refund of payroll tax and, a three-month payroll tax holiday for small and medium-sized businesses and a six-month payroll tax deferral for all business," she said.