LAST Thursday, November 26, less than a day before ‘circuit-breaker’ restrictions came into force in Northern Ireland, a number of independent Fermanagh businesses received correspondence stating that they would not be receiving Government funding support that they had been advised to apply for.

Speaking to The Impartial Reporter this week, Jemma Dolan, Sinn Féin MLA for Fermanagh South Tyrone, explained that she had been contacted by a number of businesses, such as cafés, gyms and hairdressers, at the latter end of last week regarding being refused payment for the Localised Restriction Support Scheme.

She said: “This is an awful situation for any business to be in, especially at this time of the year. For those who got in touch with me, I contacted the Department of Finance on their behalf and so far, the majority of them have been solved; I have four or five outstanding.

“The Department official assured me that most issues will be solved, but due to the 400-plus payments that were paid in error during the roll-out of the last support scheme, there are additional checks in place, including an examination of social media to double-check the nature of the business,” said Jemma.

She added: “If anyone finds themselves in this very difficult situation, I would encourage them to contact the Department, or to contact my office.”

A local beautician – who wishes to remain anonymous – was one of the business owners who received an email saying that she had been refused support.

When asked if she had had any update on whether she would receive the Government support, the beautician told this newspaper that although she had been approached by both Jemma and a representative of Arlene Foster’s office, she has been left more confused by their advice.

She said: “I have had a message from Jemma saying that I put my landlord’s name in wrong – apparently it should have been in her maiden name, not her married name – so she told me to email the Department again and let them know.

“Then Arlene Foster’s office rang and they are following it up too. They said there was a question on the end of the form that was in relation to Covid and business, but said it was worded so that it wasn’t easily interpreted, and many had selected the wrong box automatically, deeming them unsuccessful.

“Honestly, with both of them saying different things, I feel like I’m not going to get anywhere. I’ve sent in evidence of insurance, my business card, brochures, vouchers and also rectified the ‘mistake’ of my landlord’s name, and I’ve still not had anything.

“I’m lucky enough that my step-father has loaned me money to keep us going over Christmas,” she told this newspaper.

Hairdresser Devon Casey, the owner of Elysian in Enniskillen, received the email saying that she wouldn’t receive the Localised Restriction Support on November 26, just as she was finishing up with a client ahead of having to close her salon for two weeks.

“I was still in the salon, and my last client was in the basin getting their hair washed, and I had to fight back tears,” Devon told this newspaper last Friday, November 27.

She has since been contacted by a representative from the Department of Finance asking her to fill the form in again and resend. As of going to print, Devon had not received an update.