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Sole trader grant for Covid-19 financial support extended

Wednesday 17 February 2021 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Economy, National


Sole trader grant for Covid-19 financial support extended
The Private Sector Task Force (Chamber of Commerce), RMD and Internal affairs meeting with the growers and farmers of Murienua. 21021518.

Those who have missed out on government’s sole trader grant initiative can still apply for funds.

The new applications for the sole trader grant have been extended to the end of this month.

Some sole traders missed out on the opportunity when the grant initiative was launched last year.

There were three rounds of sole trader grants as part of government’s Economic Response Plan phases I and II in 2020. For each round, the applicant received a $3000 grant.

In April, under Economic Response Plan Phase I, $1,068,000 was paid out to 356 applicants. Under phase II in July, $960,000 was paid out to 320 and in October, $900,000 was paid out to 300 applicants.

Sole traders applying for government grant are required to register with the Revenue Management Division (RMD) and then with the Cook Islands National Superannuation Fund (CINSF) in order to qualify for the grants.

The Private Sector Task Force PSTSO (Chamber of Commerce) have conducted consultations with the growers, farmers and fishermen of Takuvaine, Murienua and Avatiu to explain the requirements to qualify for the grant.

Eve Hayden, the chief executive officer of Chamber of Commerce, said: “While this was an efficient process from the Government’s side, unfortunately, many missed out because they either had not heard about it, didn’t know how to go about registering, or in some cases, they didn’t realise how affected they would be.”

The move for the community consultations was motivated by a meeting led by the Ministry of Agriculture that drew 70 growers to listen and learn what may be available to sole traders through the Cook Islands Government’s Covid-19 Economic Response Plan Phase III.

It was discovered then, that a vast majority do not keep business records, so will not be in a position of eligibility just based on that requirement.

Chamber along with Revenue Management Division and Internal Affairs discussed options at the consultations that ensued.

“Consultations are always important, and these meetings were really just to explain the requirements for eligibility and to provide some information on how some could go about getting some records.”

Chamber recognises that it is easier for most people to understand the discussions if the conversation is in Maori.

“I don’t think language is an issue, we had presenters who speak and understand Maori.

“I do think though that we should think about ways to improve delivery of information and assistance better to the community.”

The Private Sector Taskforce Support Office was set up and funded by Government to provide this support, and hundreds of people to date have been through the process.

Grant recipient Danny Mataroa said the paperwork and the absence of record keeping was the most difficult when filling out the application for the grant.

“But this made me get my paperwork together,” Mataroa said.

“You must keep your records, the money coming in and the money going out - even if it is noted in a diary. So, bank your money so there are clear records of the transactions you make.”

Mataroa noted one of the problems for sole traders was that after Saturday markets, the banks weren’t open, “so we would all go and shop for the following week …”.

He encourages people to not be disheartened or afraid and ask for help and is thankful to Ministry of Finance and Economic Management and Business Trade Investment Board for their assistance. “I was up there at MFEM so many times to get my paperwork into order, I spent so much time there, it was worth the time.”

This latest sole trader grant is strict in the eligibility requirements, said Hayden said. “One being evidence of financial changes from December 2019 compared with December 2020 and for this to be certified by a recognised accounting professional, and for their annual tax return to have been filed.  For sole traders who do not keep records, this is unachievable.”

The sole trader cash grant was designed as a one-off cash $3000 payment only to each business that qualifies.

To qualify for the sole trader grant: Your business must be structured as a sole trader and be registered with the Revenue Management Division, MFEM and CINSF, and operating in the Cook Islands.

Contact the Chamber of Commerce at 20925 for more information.