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Dominello apologises for Service NSW payment delays

Business

NSW Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello has apologised to businesses for the slow delivery of COVID-19 business support payments, of which 80 per cent have now been processed.

By John Buckley 11 minute read

At a press conference on Wednesday, Mr Dominello said his department’s service has fallen below standard, and issued a formal apology to the state’s businesses who have, in some cases, had to wait up to a month for support, and had their calls left unanswered.

“Can I first begin by apologising to all the businesses that did not receive their grants on time or did not receive phone calls when they should have expected phone calls?” Mr Dominello said.

“Service New South Wales, and myself — we pride ourselves on providing great services to the people of our state. It’s a service that we built up over seven or eight years now but is not just renowned here in Australia but around the world.

“The quality of service we provided over the last month is not up to standard. We are making headway in relation to the business grants and I’ll provide you with the figures today.”

The COVID-19 business grants provide NSW businesses with tax-free payments of up to $15,000, while the state’s JobSaver package offers weekly cash-flow support payments of up to $100,000 to businesses to encourage them to maintain their headcount.

Each of the state’s business support packages, along with its micro-business support scheme, which offers non-employing businesses fortnightly payments of $1,500, is being administered by Service NSW.

According to Service NSW, about 260,000 business grant applications have been received so far, of which roughly 200,000 have been approved “and/or” paid. 

Mr Dominello said that those whose applications have already been approved will likely have been paid. If not, he said, they can expect to receive payments in the “next few days”. 

He said that of the roughly 60,000 applications remaining, about 10,000 are being held, pending requests for additional information. However, 15,000 applications are more than two weeks old, and have yet to be processed. 

“We have got 587 assessors that are working specifically to make sure that we clear that backlog of 15,000 which represents about 5 per cent of the total amount,” Mr Dominello said. 

Mr Dominello said that while his department’s average payment processing time — from application to payment — has so far been 7.5 working days, he conceded that a sizeable cohort has experienced wait times as long as two weeks or more.

He said those applications will have his department’s full attention in the coming days.

“In relation to wait times — again, they have not been great,” Mr Dominello said. “You would expect that with 260,000 applications, we had a 4,000 per cent increase in call demand at the peak. 

“We have never had this level of demand before and when we were setting up this grant program, in many ways, we were flying and building the plane at the same time.

“But we are, again, making a lot of progress and we’re reporting that progress daily on a dedicated Service New South Wales web page,” Mr Dominello said. “But in terms of call times, at their peak they were over two hours. Last week, they got down to 18 minutes, and now they’re under 10 minutes.

“Again, under 10 minutes is not great compared to what we’re used to at Service New South Wales. We accept that. But these are challenging times and I’d be grateful for your patience.”

Mr Dominello’s apology comes less than a week after NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian made assurances to the state’s businesses, when she told reporters that Service NSW advised her that a “backlog” of applications was expected to be processed and paid by the end of this week.

Last week, the department said it had received 104,000 applications for its COVID-19 business grant, with $278 million approved to be paid out to businesses. 

The state’s micro-business grant last week was also reported to have attracted 22,000 applications, with $417,000 worth of payments approved. Meanwhile, more than 67,000 businesses were reported to have applied for JobSaver, with $86 million approved for payment.

Service NSW’s administration of the support payments came under fire almost as soon as applications opened, after it left accountants and business clients to grapple with holes in eligibility guidelines and abrupt changes to critical dates.

The confusion has seen the state agency swamped with enquiries over the last month, with Service NSW last week admitting to fielding up to 20,000 calls a day, and a further 5,000 callback requests.

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John Buckley

John Buckley

AUTHOR

John Buckley is a journalist at Accountants Daily. 

Before joining the team in 2021, John worked at The Sydney Morning Herald. His reporting has featured in a range of outlets including The Washington Post, The Age, and The Saturday Paper.

Email John at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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