Tasmanian small businesses in hospitality, events, transport and tourism have criticised the government's latest support grant scheme as an example of how too many businesses are falling through the cracks.
The $20 million package from the state and federal governments, announced on August 13, appeared to exclude businesses with a turnover under $50,000, according to those who have attempted to access the scheme.
Tracie Leslie, who runs bridal and formal alterations business T M Designs in Launceston, was among those concerned about the eligibility criteria.
Before COVID, she had never been short of work since starting the business 15 years ago, but work rapidly dried up. Despite this, she has only been able to receive a $2500 emergency grant from the City of Launceston.
Being ineligible for the latest government grant scheme was yet another setback.
Ms Leslie said she had been advised by Van Diemen project and Project Lab to pivot to online, but this would require an entire transformation of her business.
"So far I have only four weddings for the six months. With the lockdowns of Victoria and NSW relatives can't come to Tasmania so weddings are postponed till...?" she said.
The $50,000 eligibility criteria also excluded a taxi service that operates at Launceston Airport, with the owner saying his trade had dipped below that threshold, ruling him out for support.
In a letter to government ministers, he outlined his concerns with the grant scheme.
"With the current income test you have set, to gain a small business grant - $50,000 to $100,000 - will receive a $2000 grant. These guidelines are impossible for me to meet as I haven't been fortunate enough to earn this amount through no fault of my own," he wrote.
"So therefore my business will miss out on receiving a grant, yet I still have rent to pay, food to buy, rego and insurance, phone bill, fuel."
Border closures have also hit Tasmania's restaurant scene hard.
Co-owner of Launceston restaurants Stillwater and Black Cow Bistro, Bianca Welsh, said business had fallen by 60 per cent on weekdays.
"Many businesses across Tasmania are probably questioning whether they can go on," she said.
"Things are feeling scarier than they did last year, because without JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments, without that education that the industry is hurting, we're just not feeling that people are really understanding how quiet things are."
Various examples were used by Labor small business spokesperson Janie Finlay to question the government about the limitations of the grant scheme in Parliament on Wednesday.
She urged the government to take a more proactive approach to help businesses that were struggling to stay afloat now, rather than wait.
"We're hearing from people now, right now today, of the distress that they're under," Ms Finlay said.
"We're hearing from micro, small and large businesses, we're hearing from people in retail, hospitality, tourism, we're hearing from people in lots of different sectors about concerns in the reduction in their income.
"Not just at the 30 per cent, which sets the threshold of need for support, we're hearing from people who are having a drop in their income right now of 60 per cent, 80 per cent."
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The eligibility criteria included a loss of trade of 30 per cent, with grants on a sliding scale from $10,000 to $2000 depending on the size of the business.
Small Business Minister Jane Howlett said the government was open to examining the eligibility criteria.
"We're taking on board ... the feedback from businesses with a view to use this information to inform how we can adapt the current program's eligibility criteria to provide broader and practical support at this critical time, as well as the structure of future business support packages," she said.
"If the criteria needs to be adapted, then we will do it."
State Growth Minister Roger Jaensch listed various other small business support packages since the start of the pandemic, including $1.2 million for small business counselling, $2 million "business incubator" program, and funding packages for chambers of commerce.
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