The Labor Government is refusing to roll over credit on fuel cards held by more than 54,000 pensioners across regional WA despite unspent values expected to soar at the end of this financial year.
Local MP Shane Love MLA said requests to have unspent funds from this financial year rolled over to next year had been rejected by the Regional Development Minister.
“Country Age Pension Fuel Cards provide vital assistance for transport costs so regional pensioners can stay mobile and connected in their communities,” he said.
“However, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions placed on them, many cardholders have been unable to expend the full value of their fuel cards in 2019-20.
“The Minister’s refusal to roll over unspent values is a miserly decision, and one that could have left a few extra dollars in the pockets of the card holders to spend locally.”
Introduced by The Nationals WA in government and funded by Royalties for Regions, fuel cards provide $575 annually to eligible pensioners to assist with fuel costs, taxis and transport needs.
Despite the program’s popularity, the Labor Government has already frozen card values by removing CPI indexation previously applied.
Last month Nationals WA Leader Mia Davies wrote to the Minister proposing card balances be rolled over to 2020-21 to acknowledge that many would not have used the full value due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Minister has ruled it out, citing a diversion of State Government funding to help businesses survive and rebuild had been prioritised.
“Business survival is just as dependant on having customers with money to spend if they are to continue operating successfully,” Ms Davies said.
“Country Age Pension Fuel Cards are already budgeted for each year so there is no additional expense to the State by being flexible and rolling unspent balances over.
“The latest quarterly financial report tabled by the Government shows there is a $200 million underspend in Royalties for Regions this year and the surplus fuel card amounts will be another example of money from the program not being spent.
“Our suggestion is simple and effective – roll over remaining balances so cardholders have a little bit more money in their pockets to support local businesses and stimulate local economies.”