Facebook has opened applications for its small business grant programme in the Auckland region, six months after first announcing the scheme.  

But struggling applicants hit by the pandemic shouldn’t expect a quick pay-day. Facebook said it will take another seven-to-nine weeks after applications close on Sept. 22 to review and give feedback on a shortlist.

After this, there will be “additional selection phases” with the timeframe to be communicated to applicants at a later date, Facebook NZ’s head of public policy, Nick McDonnell, said.

British newspaper, The Times reported in July that UK applicants had been waiting for four months.

When asked if any of the US$100 million grants announced in March had been awarded, McDonnell said the global grants programme was “halfway rolled out” with 10,000 small businesses “in the process of receiving the grants”.

“We worked hard to create a local criteria based on regional nuances and needs, so we could ensure that we had a robust process around making the grants,” he said.  

“Identifying the right partner to help us get the programme to life was also an important part and we are happy to now announce the details and open applications.”

Not for everyone

The social media giant has partnered with the Whariki Maori Business Network to allocate $400,000 in grants to Auckland-based small businesses with between two and 50 employees.

The grants are only available in cities where Facebook has offices, so small businesses outside of main centres are missing out.

The grants are worth approximately $6,600 each, made up of $4,100 cash and $2,500 in optional Facebook ad credits, to “help rebuild during an incredibly challenging year,” Facebook said.

Whariki is the largest Maori business network, representing approximately 750 businesses. The group said 26 percent of Maori-owned businesses are located in Auckland.

“Through this relationship between Whariki and Facebook we are able to give tangible effect to our shared values and collective goal to support Maori-owned businesses in Tamaki Makaurau,” said Whariki chair Heta Hudson.

The grants are not limited to businesses with Maori owners but any company meeting the criteria.

Heightened uncertainty

Whariki’s project manager, Jamie Rihia, said the opening of applications came at a time when Auckland businesses were feeling heightened uncertainty about alert levels and future flare ups due to covid-19. 

“The sense from our members is that the second Tamaki Makaurau lockdown has made things much harder,” he said.

Facebook’s McDonnell said the grants would reach a diverse range of small businesses to assist with the covid-19 recovery.

“The goal is to not only provide much needed support, but the tools and resources for businesses to build resilience and partake in the national and global economies,” he said.