New revelations that the Work and Income website only published the deadline for the first round of the wage subsidy two and a half days before it closed reinforce the need for that deadline to be extended, National’s Social Development and Employment spokesperson Louise Upston says.
“Applications opened on 20 August 2021, the Government could’ve informed New Zealanders of the exact deadline then. It beggars belief the Government didn’t think to put the deadline on a website many Kiwis went to for information about the wage subsidy earlier.
“For this reason alone the Government must extend the application deadline for the first fortnight all of New Zealand was in lockdown. I have written to Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni requesting an extension.
“The fact applications mistakenly closed early on 2 September 2021 before the 11.59 pm deadline demonstrates the Government failed to undertake sufficient due diligence with its new fortnightly application process.
“The further problem with online applications on 3 September 2021 are blamed on high application volumes. The Government, for unbeknown reasons, always planned a time period between rounds one and two when applications could not be lodged.
“The Government must make amends for their incompetence and botched communications.
“Many New Zealand businesses and their employees have been left stressed given the uncertainty these bungles have caused.
“National has provided a constructive solution and I look forward to the Government’s response to our request.”
Note: WPQ below.
Upston, Hon Louise
Social Development and Employment (Hon Carmel Sepuloni)
What was the earliest date any Government website specifically stated 2 September 2021 was the last day applications for the first round of the August 2021 wage-subsidy could be lodged; which Government website first explicitly stated a deadline mentioning 2 September 2021; what was the earliest date and time, if any, that the Work and Income website stated 2 September 2021 was the final day first round applications could be lodged?
I am advised by the Ministry of Social Development (the Ministry) that information about the availability of the Wage Subsidy August 2021 was on the Work and Income website from 9:00 am on 20 August 2021. The website said the Wage Subsidy would be open for applications for two weeks. At 11:54 am on 31 August 2021, the website was updated to say applications for the first round of the Wage Subsidy August 2021 would close at 11:59 pm on 2 September 2021.
I am further advised that:
• A change was made to the Wage Subsidy revenue test period to ensure businesses were not disadvantaged by the inclusion of 17 August in the period. I refer the Member to the information available via the following link: https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/about-work-and income/news/2021/wage-subsidy-august-2021-changes-to-revenue-test-period.html
• Due to a technical issue on the evening of Thursday 2 September 2021, the Work and Income website was unable to accept Wage Subsidy applications for a two hour period from 8:00 pm until 10:00 pm. This issue was a human error and was the result of work being completed on the website that evening in preparation for the opening of the next round of the Wage Subsidy scheme the following morning. It is not possible to determine exactly how many businesses attempted to make an application for the Wage Subsidy August 2021 between 8.00 pm and 10.00 pm on 2 September 2021 when the application form was unavailable.
• Some applicants experienced issues when accessing or submitting their applications between 9 am and 10.30 am on 3 September 2021. This was due to the large volume of applicants accessing and submitting the application form between these times.
In fairness to those who tried to apply between 8:00 pm and 10:00 pm on 2 September 2021, MSD made the decision to extend the application period from the original close off time of 11:59 pm, out to 7:00 am Friday 3 September. Businesses who advise they were unable to apply for the Wage Subsidy August 2021 between 8.00 pm and 10.00 pm on 2 September 2021 due to the error on the website, have also been invited to submit a late application.
I am advised by the Ministry that as of 6 September 2021:
• 91% of paid Wage Subsidy August 2021 applications have been paid within three working days
• 87% of applications completed (paid, approved, closed, or declined) have been completed within three working days
• 76% of all applications (including pending) were completed within or have been pending for three working days or less
Once an application is approved, it is paid no later than the next working day. The main reason for any delay is when the information contained in the application cannot be matched with Inland Revenue data. The Ministry is working with applicants and Inland Revenue to ensure applications that do not match with Inland Revenue data are processed as quickly as possible. This includes calling over 7,000 applicants a day to check information and working with them to make the changes needed to get their application processed. Once the application information is matched, the applicant will receive payment either the same day, or next business day.
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