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DUP Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart has urged the Finance Minister to step up and provide clarity for over 800 grant applicants who were wrongly told yesterday they were not eligible for financial support after their businesses were closed because of Department of Health Covid-19 restrictions.

Mrs Lockhart repeated her call on the Finance Minister to apologise for this confusion.

Carla Lockhart said,

“Constituency offices across Northern Ireland are being contacted by small businesses who had applied for this grant. There is total confusion. This demands action by the Finance Minister to ensure there is a communication strategy rolled out to help provide clarity for those applicants.

This confusion all arises from a “check box” which led the Department to believe that the applicants had not been trading before the restrictions were put in place. Some of the businesses I have dealt with have been trading for over 30 years and are deeply frustrated that five weeks after closing they are now facing into an appeal mechanism to get the support they deserve.

I first raised this matter with the Department of Finance yesterday, yet 24 hours later there has been no information publicised for applicants. Our elected representatives have been using their social media and constituency offices to help people. The Finance Minister should ask his officials to get a simple explainer posted on the Department’s website and social media. The Department of Finance needs to step up and get its act together.

Five weeks after closing, it is not good enough that payments are stalled. We all appreciate the need for checks and balances when paying out public money but this was supposed to be a simple scheme to speed up payments, yet it is stalled in confusion.”