Opinion: Errors put dampener on cost of living sweetener

Giving $350 to people who need it - good.

Trying to get it out quickly - good.

Making it simple by appearing in your account - good.

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Handing out free money to those who aren’t in New Zealand, aren’t alive or who earn a lot - a problem.

As of Thursday, the number of people who have voluntarily opted out of the cost of living payment is 3158.

These are people who either don’t want it or don’t think they’re eligible so have said 'no thanks'.

At the moment that’s the only firm insight into what’s going on behind the scenes because the Government doesn’t know how many people have received the first $116 payment who shouldn’t have.

The estimate is 1% but the Government can’t be exact.

The damaging thing about this for Labour is that it's worked so hard to be responsible managers of the economy, and this plays into National’s hands.

Making it rain for expat lawyers in London or Sydneysiders who haven’t paid tax at home for years isn’t the idea behind this.

We knew some would slip through the cracks because the Government is trying to push it out so quickly, but it’s not a great look.

What’s more, that money could have been extended to those who really need it. like beneficiaries.

They aren’t included in the cost of living payment and you can be sure $116 a month for three months would be a welcome addition to those households.

That’s something the Greens have been pushing for.

When 1News talked to people on the street on Monday, many had heard about the clunky way the money was paid out and it puts a dampener on what was meant to be a nice perk for two million Kiwis.

It feels like Labour can’t even hand out a $800 million budget sweetener without something going wrong.

But the alternative for the Government is making people apply, and that would be worse because lots of people wouldn’t.

National’s proposal of tax cuts isn’t exactly targeted either, but they’ve been effective in drawing a lot of attention to the Government’s system faux pas.

The Government gets another crack at this on September 1 with payment number two, and it will be hoping it goes a lot more smoothly than the first.