Outrage and confusion over government’s COVID-19 tradies scheme, calls for deadline extension

by | Apr 17, 2020 | COVID-19, News, NT Politics | 1 comment

Territorians hoping to apply for the Gunner Government’s COVID-19 Home Improvement stimulus package have expressed their outrage over the new, rushed deadline of 5pm today to be eligible for the grant.

Dozens of Territorians lit up talk-back radio over the issue Friday, complaining about the Gunner Government’s decision to move the deadline to apply for the now $60 million scheme to 5 pm Friday.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner announced the deadline change during a press conference Thursday, about the cancellation of Cracker Night. He also announced the funds would now run over 12 months and not the initial three.

Some Territorians said the new deadline was impossible to meet, while others said they had tradies scheduled to give them quotes next week, making it impossible to submit the requirements by 5 pm Friday. Others said they’ve been trying to arrange appointments with tradies for days but couldn’t because of the increased demand.

Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro blasted the latest changes to the Home Improvement Scheme saying they are “confusing and surprising for the trades people and homeowners wishing to take advantage of it”.

“Yesterday’s snap announcement from the Labor Government to quadruple the timeframe for tradies to complete works under the scheme to 12 months will come as a shock to many tradies who made the difficult decision to stop quoting jobs to homeowners because they were not able to deliver within the original 3 month timeframe,” Ms Finocchiaro said.

She stressed that tradies are also concerned that material costs will change if the work is going to be spread over 12 months instead of the original three-month timeframe.

“They now have no real opportunity to submit quotes and keep the pipeline of work going for 12 months, which is what the Government says is the point of the extension to the scheme. Many tradies haven’t even been able to register for the work yet,” she said.

The government said the Home Improvement Scheme has received more than 10,000 applications in less than a month.

The program was set-up in the wake of the crushing economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis and allows Territory homeowners who spend $2,000 of their own money on renovations to be given up to $6,000 from the government or $4000 from the government for $1000 of personal money.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner said on Thursday that the program had “blown away” expectations. The scheme was projected to stimulate an injection of cash into the NT’s economy by giving a “massive pipeline of work” to tradies and other small business owners working in areas such as carpentry, electrical work, plumbing, and fencing.

Territory Alliance leader Terry Mills said the Chief Minister was sneaky by changing the deadline while announcing that he was cancelling Territory Day fireworks and called on the Gunner Government to immediately extend the deadline to May 15.

He added the change was “a deliberate act” to reduce the government’s role in the economic crisis currently being experienced.

“COVID-19 (has resulted) in the shutting down of whole sectors of the economy and a part of the economy that is still able to work is being kicked in the shins by the Gunner Government,” Mr Mills said.

“I cannot believe that during this period the response of the Gunner Government is to close off something that is actually needed and functioning.

“We also have tradies reporting that they’ve had their registration in the scheme rejected.

“What is going on?”

Attorney-General Natasha Fyles would not say if she supported extending the deadline when asked on Friday at a press conference.

“That is a significant injection into our local economy – $60 million plus what the individual households put in,” she said. “Of course, there has to be an end point and we were always upfront. That was, when the money ran out or we got to a date.

“The department is working hard to process (applications). This is just one measure to support our economy in a very tough time.”

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