One in three got a dis­as­ter pay­ment

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS - Troy Kip­pen

ONE in three peo­ple in the Whit­sun­day, Mackay and Isaac re­gions re­ceived a hard­ship grant in the wake of Cy­clone Debbie, the Whit­sun­day Times can re­veal.

More than 84,000 peo­ple in th­ese ar­eas re­ceived a hard­ship pay­ment un­der a new elec­tronic pay­ment sys­tem.

Prior to Cy­clone Debbie, it was a pa­per process to dis­trib­ute the Im­me­di­ate Hard­ship As­sis­tance grants.

The to­tal amount paid out in the re­gion un­der the grant was about

$14.9 mil­lion.

Re­spond­ing to a ques­tion on no­tice from Mem­ber for Whit­sun­day Jason Costi­gan, who claimed “count­less peo­ple” were de­nied pay­ments, the Min­is­ter for Com­mu­ni­ties, Women and Youth Shan­non Fen­ti­man, said no one who was el­i­gi­ble for the pay­ment was de­nied.

“Al­though the ap­pli­ca­tion and pay­ment process was easy and ef­fi­cient for the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple, de­layed pay­ments are in fact largely at­trib­ut­able to cir­cum­stances where pa­per forms were used in hubs that com­menced op­er­a­tion to im­me­di­ately start as­sist­ing peo­ple even though power was not avail­able,” she said.

Mr Costi­gan took the min­is­ter to task on the new elec­tronic sys­tem claim­ing it had failed and was not ad­e­quately tested.

Ms Fen­ti­man said the sys­tem was tested at the start of the storm sea­son, and again as the trop­i­cal cy­clone was form­ing off the Queens­land coast.

She said it worked well for the first time af­ter the pa­per sys­tem had been phased out, fol­low­ing TC Mar­cia in 2015.

Ac­cord­ing to the min­is­ter al­most eight times the num­ber of grants were pro­vided dur­ing the first 14 days of grant ac­ti­va­tion, com­pared to the num­ber fol­low­ing TC Mar­cia, grants were paid 51% faster and 94% of ap­pli­cants were paid by elec­tronic trans­fer quickly.

PHOTO: PETER CAR­RUTHERS

AF­TER­MATH: Airlie Beach fore­shore af­ter TC Debbie, Thurs­day, March 30.

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