Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire Member of the Welsh Parliament, Angela Burns MS, has called on the Welsh Government to look at reopening the Economic Resilience Fund (ERF) support process in light of criticism surrounding reports of the application process having unnecessary barriers in place for firms to apply.
The ERF fund was introduced by the Welsh Government to support businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic. The third phase of the scheme was launched on 28th October and invited businesses to apply for a limited pot of money on a first come, first served basis. The scheme due to run for 28 days until 25th November was paused only 36 hours after launch due to the “high number of applications”.
Businesses owners in Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire have contacted Angela to express their frustration at the closure of the scheme so soon after its launch and highlighting the lack of clarity surrounding the requirements in the application process.
One business explained how their application was turned down due to the bank statements provided by their bank to accompany their application being in the “wrong format”, despite no clarity being provided on the Business Wales website. They were also informed that they had no right to challenge this decision.
Commenting Angela said
“Businesses throughout Wales have been dramatically affected by the lockdowns introduced to help to combat the spread of Covid-19 and many are in dire need of the support offered through Government support schemes such as the ERF.
“However the third phase of the ERF in Wales has been dogged by problems. Whether it be the decision to make it first come, first served, the closure of the application window less than two days after it opened, or the lack of clarity surrounding the application process, business have expressed to me their frustration on the barriers that have been placed in their way to apply for this support.
“The cynic in me would say that the Welsh Government has failed to understand the number of businesses that would qualify for this scheme and have found ways to suppress applications.
“Small business owners are the lifeblood of the West Wales economy and it is vital that if support is available, it is easily and fairly accessible. The time taken to apply for these grants, along with the stress that is created in order to ensure that applications are correct in a short timeframe, takes busines owners away from working in their businesses.
“The Welsh Government must show that they are listening and understand business and simplify the ERF application process to ensure that all qualifying businesses are able to access it in the simplest way possible”.