Premier Andrew Fahie still hasn’t said how many of 1,258 businesses approved for stimulus grants have received their cheques as part of a $6.5 million initiative launched last year to help mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic.
Mr. Fahie, however, did provide some updates on the grants during a House of Assembly sitting last week in response to questions from Opposition Leader Marlon Penn.
The programme was funded with part of the approximately $57 million in grants the Social Security Board put toward a larger $62.9 million economic stimulus package launched last May.
Mr. Penn asked Mr. Fahie on March 10 how many business-grant applications were received, how many were approved, how many were denied, and how many cheques had been paid out.
Mr. Fahie explained that the application deadline “required extension,” and there were two cohorts of applications.
“The first cohort of the applications received a total of 1,239 businesses’ applications,” he said. “The second received an additional 644, for a combined total of 1,883. Of those, 1,258 applicants were approved for grants.”
After some prodding by Mr. Penn, the premier conceded that not all successful businesses have received their cheques, but he didn’t give a number.
Mr. Fahie also said that applicants who were rejected haven’t been notified, and he told Mr. Penn that he can “only report … the information on file.”
The opposition leader then asked whether any notification will go out to unsuccessful applicants in the future.
“So there’s a difference of over 600 businesses that applied and didn’t get any ‘denied’ notification,” he said. “What is the government’s plan on dealing with those businesses?”
Mr. Fahie explained that the grant programme is still ongoing, and that “communications will be made.”
To account for some of the applications that were denied, he added that some individuals filled out applications for multiple businesses they own.
Government “cannot allow one person to go with seven cheques,” he said, adding that the grants were being “spaced out” to ensure that “many persons” received some form of stimulus.
Mr. Penn expressed his agreement with that approach.
Mr. Fahie added, “The response to the business stimulus grant was overwhelmingly positive.”
The business-grant programme was announced in late May along with the rest of the stimulus package, but applications didn’t open until late July.
Eligible businesses — those with 20 or fewer employees — had until Aug. 21 to apply for assistance, and on Sept. 22 the premier announced that 1,039 of 1,423 applicants would receive grants ranging from $1,592 to $7,955.
Government also published a table of awards by district, showing a total of $6,138,899, but the premier said the names of the businesses would be withheld for “security purposes.”
Businesses were soon complaining that they had not received their awards, but the premier said on Oct. 8 that more than 100 cheques had been distributed and 400 more would be distributed within a week.
Since then, however, no further information has been provided on the distribution.