The accountant says he was shocked by the response from an MSD staff member about a problem in his system. Photo / File
An accountant who called MSD to help his client claim the wage subsidy after the government website shut down for hours before the application deadline said he was shocked by the unfriendly response he had.
Karl Ruby, a partner at the Matley accounting firm in Tauranga, stayed on the phone for over an hour to reach the Department of Social Development on Friday morning.
“The lady I spoke to was pretty rude. She said ‘well he missed it.’ I said but there was a problem last night and it wasn’t well known. [the deadline] had been rolled over at 7 am – she said “well, it’s closed”. “
Ruby said the woman had also asked what her client had done in the past 14 days – the period during which applications were open.
“She basically implied that he was just sitting around doing nothing and should have asked for it.”
But Ruby said it was easy for retailers to claim the wage subsidy as soon as the lockdown began, other businesses had to wait to make sure they met the criteria.
“Our advice to them was to make sure you wait the full 14 days to make sure you’re below that 40 percent because the problem you have is that the MSD statement says if you provide a false statement, you have indeed committed a criminal offense. “
Applications for the first installment of the August 2021 wage subsidy were to close Thursday evening at 11:59 p.m.
But a technical glitch caused by human error meant anyone trying to apply between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. was notified that applications were closed.
The website reopened for applications shortly after 10 p.m. with a notice extending the deadline to 7 a.m. Friday morning.
Business advisor Geoff Neal told the Herald he doubts many have seen the late-night extension leaving thousands of business owners stressed and deprived of the money that is designed to go to workers to help them. to keep their jobs.
“How many businesses would have come across this web page before that? Winz once again appears to have failed to email businesses with this information.”
Neal said the government needs to take the lead with a proper apology, an extension of the deadline and communication with companies already in their database.
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson noted the problem at the 1 p.m. press conference on Friday, but made no apologies for it.
“I would like to note that due to an administrative error, the website was closed last night for two hours between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.”
Robertson said if there were any businesses affected by the shutdown, they should contact MSD directly.
Jason Dwen, general manager of centralized services at MSD, said the issue was the result of human error and was due to work being done on the website for the second iteration of the wage subsidy program that opened its doors. doors at 9 am Friday morning.
“We are sorry for this.
“We are working on a process to deal with people who think they are missing something. A complaint form is available on the Work & Income website and we will contact you as soon as possible to discuss it.”
Ruby said he would try to call MSD again after hearing Robertson’s advice, but the problem was MSD didn’t have enough call center staff.
Geoff Cook, general manager of MSD’s contact center and digital services, encouraged anyone affected by the outage to call 0800 40 80 40 on Monday.
“We will take their contact details and follow up with them.”
Neal said many businesses can’t measure actual revenue losses every two weeks until the end of Wednesday, September 1 / start of Thursday, September 2.
“Yet the government has set a deadline of just 24 hours to complete these calculations and submit claims. All at a time when financial and mental stress has never been higher for Kiwi SMEs, and they must scramble. every stressful day. “
He said companies should have at least fifteen days after the end of a fifteen day period to apply, or even a month.
Ruby said getting the wage subsidy could mean the difference between some businesses being able to reopen after the lockdown ends.
So far, this foreclosure 242,600 wage subsidy applications have been approved with total payments of $ 998 million.
This time around, companies can only apply for two weeks of wage subsidy at a time.
In addition to the wage subsidy, many businesses may be eligible for the Resurrection Support Payment.
It is worth up to $ 1,500 plus $ 400 per full-time equivalent employee, up to a maximum of 50 full-time employees (so up to a total of $ 21,500) and is a one-time payment available for each lock in s ‘addressing Inland Revenue.
Robertson on Friday announced a relaxation of qualification for the grant, with a company’s length of service dropping from six months to one month.