Finance

Thousands of Groningers seize compensation through subsidy lottery

Many of them did so in vain: the 220 million euros in the subsidy pot seems like a generous amount, but due to the way of distribution, the compensation scheme degenerated into a subsidy lottery.

Monday morning, January 10, at the stroke of 9:00 am, the subsidy counter of the Northern Netherlands Partnership (SNN) opened. SNN is a vehicle of the three northern provinces that provides subsidies. In this case, it concerned a subsidy of up to ten thousand euros for the sustainability and renovation of houses in Groningen and a small part of Drenthe.

Is this subsidy available to every resident?

New. The money is intended for homeowners in the earthquake zone who have no damage to their home from an earthquake and are therefore not covered by the reinforcement operation. Because they are (sometimes for years) in uncertainty about the earthquakes and have therefore postponed renovation of their home, the government has set up a subsidy scheme.

With that money, these homeowners can carry out maintenance on their home, but also, for example, have an extension installed or make their energy supply more sustainable with solar panels.

Free money! That’s great, how much was available?

In total, the national government, the province of Groningen and the municipalities involved have made 300 million euros available for this. Of this, 75 million euros would be provided in the first round, 150 million in the second and another 75 million in a third round.

After the first round, in July last year, the money ran out within a few days. A few months later, then Interior Minister Kajsa Ollongren promised that anyone who had applied in the first round would actually receive that money. Even if this would exceed 75 million euros.

In addition, it was decided to merge the second and third subsidy rounds, so that more people would gain clarity more quickly about the financial compensation they were entitled to.

Is there a catch in the grass?

A catch? Feel free to say a boa constrictor. The unrest and uncertainty in Groningen were not prevented by Ollongren’s decision, but only postponed. After all, there has never been enough money in the pot to meet all rightholders.

In total, more than 50,000 houses were eligible for the subsidy. In order to be able to give all those homeowners ten thousand euros, the government should have made available 500 million euros – but that turned out to be 300 million.

So it was already clear in advance that it would be a lottery?

Indeed, first come, first served. That’s why tens of thousands of people tried to log in to SNN on Monday morning.

And hundreds, mostly elderly people, were queuing up in front of the town halls in Winsum, Scheemda, Hoogezand and Siddeburen to physically make their application.

Almost everyone of this group of about 1800 people has been able to submit the application, said SNN director Marjan Dol yesterday. Candidates in the digital queue were not so lucky. They had to wait a long time, sometimes even a whole day, to get their turn. A common complaint was that people were simply put back in line, even after hours of waiting.

The Groningen website Sikkom warned against sharing a screenshot showing your url or the ID number of your place in the queue. Those could be copied by other waiters, allowing them to take your place.

Incomprehension, frustration and anger prevail among the people of Groningen because of the ‘subsidy lottery’. “I don’t understand why they don’t divide the pot fairly. Now we all have to fight for it, isn’t that ridiculous?” one of the victims sighed in the Volkskrant.

What now?

The subsidy ceiling was reached on Monday evening and the counter was closed. The people who have been able to make an application will hear within thirteen weeks whether it has also been granted.

The new State Secretary for Mining, Hans Vijlbrief, said yesterday that he might want to see if he could stretch the subsidy ceiling a bit. But ‘the money must also be raised’, said the D66 minister. According to him, it is ‘not so strange’ that such a subsidy budget has a ceiling.

As far as King’s Commissioner René Paas is concerned, the State is quickly replenishing the subsidy pot. “Then we think of the calculation of 53,000 households times 10,000 euros,” says his spokesperson. “The central government has now made a total of 300 million euros available. Then you will be 230 million short. We don’t care where it comes from, but solve it.”

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