Warren-Blackwood MP Terry Redman believes there has been limited uptake of a State Government cash grants program to help struggling tourism operators because too many don’t fit the criteria. As the Times reported last month, the $6500 Tourism Recovery Grants to help operators affected during the COVID-19 pandemic were not available to members of the Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association unless they also had Australia’s South West or Tourism Council of WA membership, or belonged to other specific tourism groups. Mr Redman told the Times he believed the fund was severely under-subscribed because of those conditions. Also, struggling operators missed out on the Government’s program to test asymptomatic workers because the same criteria applied. “Tourism operators right across regional WA have been smashed by the COVID-19 shutdown, and for the most part have taken the hit on the chin,” Mr Redman said. “To be told they are not eligible to even apply for an assistance grant, and are now not included in a COVID-19 testing roll-out under the DETECT program adds insult to injury.” Figures revealed in Parliament this week under questioning from Liberal Party MPs showed 1137 applications received by the June 12 cut-off date, which, if funded in full, totalled $7.39 million out of $10.4m allocated. While some operators confirmed they had missed out on the emergency funding, several also said membership of groups like TCWA and ASW was specifically designed to help with lobbying and support during tough times. Margaret River Motel operator Donna Hawkins told the ABC she gave up her $1000-a-year TCWA membership because of the past tough economic climate. “It doesn’t matter how great these organisations are, sometimes you have to make tough decisions and you can’t be part of all of them,” she said. Tourism Minister Paul Papalia previously doubled down on the tight criteria, but said the $4m Tourism Business Survival Grants were open to all on a competitive basis. “The program ... provides grants of $25,000-$100,000 for small tourism businesses impacted by COVID-19,” he said. The new funding was “designed to assist the tourism businesses around the State most severely impacted by COVID-19”. Mr Papalia said about $2.3 billion was offered in economic stimulus and small business support since the pandemic kicked off. Tuart Guest Lodge operator Peter Keynes said he was discouraged from applying for the new funds due to tough competition from bigger businesses. “We’ve always been outbid by bigger businesses that either have staff on their payroll or specialists with expertise in writing these sorts of proposals,” he said.