Qld Gov’t COVID-19 Adaption Grants program poorly designed

The Queensland Government’s $200 million COVID-19 Adaption Grants program for small businesses is poorly designed and pretty embarrassing, with the Employment Minister Shannon Fentiman today telling businesses “My strong advice is get in quick.” I was stunned when I read this in the Brisbane Times, as the Minister’s words pretty much acknowledge the program is a cash giveaway to those quick enough to lodge an application before the money runs out. It is not well targeted to those businesses most in need. The Brisbane Times reports Queensland bosses to scramble for money after first grants gone in days:

The grants open on July 1 and will be dished out until the $100 million funding pool runs out.

“I expect it to go very quickly,” Ms Fentiman said.

“The first round, $96 million, did go within 4½ days,” Ms Fentiman said.

The state government doesn’t lack public servants who can review grant applications – which should be allowed to come in over a reasonable application period (e.g. two weeks) – and rank them according to criteria, one of which should be financial need. It shouldn’t just set broad eligibility criteria and dole out money until it runs out. This is extremely poor policy and I suspect largely a waste of money that could be better spent in this time of twin economic and health crises.

Incidentally, earlier today I was invited to appear as an expert witness panel member for a public hearing on Monday 13 July of the Queensland Parliamentary Inquiry into the Queensland Government’s economic response to COVID-19. I’ll certainly mention my concern that standards of policy design have slipped substantially, as well as providing my thoughts on contentious issues such as the border closure and the Virgin bid.

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1 William St, a.k.a. the Tower of Power, is full of public servants who could assess grant applications.

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