Muir: Department must do better when it comes to grant application updates

Anyone waiting on a Coronavirus Business Support Grant must be able to easily access updates on their application, Alliance MLA Andrew Muir has said, as he called on the Economy Minister to urgently set up a central point of contact for all those anxiously waiting.

The Party’s Finance spokesperson, Mr Muir said it was “unacceptable” that many still waiting where currently unable to receive updates on individual applications, leaving many business owners fearful for the future.

He said: “For many, the promise of grants provided the lifeline they were looking for, as the business community plunged into crisis as the Coronavirus pandemic took hold in Northern Ireland.

“While it is extremely worrying that grant pay outs have been exceptionally slow here, what’s worse is the realisation that for the majority who have applied, they have no-where to go to get the correct information on the status of their application – including if they have been successful.

“Businesses across Northern Ireland are in dire straits, with many not sure how they will ride out this crisis. The Minister cannot continue to offer nothing but silence when requests for information are made.

“This scale of the crisis facing the business sector is not slowing, so there is still plenty of time to create a central portal to update those still waiting – for example the Minister herself confirmed last week that only 800 payments of £25k out of 3,000 applications have been made to date.

“In recent weeks the Minister has often been slow to acknowledge and answer questions put to her, yet I urge her to not ignore this request, but rather act now to restore confidence and certainty in all those relying on her department.”