Council announces immediate Coronavirus support measures

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Councillors have agreed to a series of immediate measures to help local businesses and the community cope with the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic, with further announcements still to come.

Mayor Stephanie Asher’s Notice of Motion during Tuesday night’s council meeting won unanimous support, and included the following initiatives:

  • Development of a Council COVID-19 financial hardship policy including consideration of rates;
  • Waiver of rent/fees for community and sporting groups within City owned land/grounds and buildings for six months from 1 March 2020;
  • Reduction of rent by 50 per cent for eligible commercial tenants in City buildings or on City land for six months from 1 March 2020;
  • Refund of Alfresco Dining permit fees for 12 months;
  • Refund of A frame permit fees for 12 months;
  • Refund of food premises registration fees for three months of the 2019-20 financial year;
  • Refund of health premises fees for three months of the 2019-20 financial year;
  • Development of Business Support Portal for local businesses;
  • Development of Small Business Expert Support Program utilising local businesses;
  • Geelong Business Concierge Service Expansion to support business program development; and
  • Free casual on and off street parking in the Geelong CBD until 30 June 2020.

The first 10 measures are estimated at more than $1.2 million in value combined, while the free parking is worth around $2 million based on last year’s data.

These measures will form part of a short-term economic and community support package to be finalised by April. The parking changes will come into effect as of close of business Wednesday 25 March.

Councillors also agreed to the development of a medium to longer-term package to be funded in the 2020-21 financial year and presented to the council by June.

No ceiling has been set for the size of the either package, with the motion forecasting the potential for the council to adopt a fiscal policy of deficit to help fund its support measures.

Mayor Asher’s motion also highlighted the key role of the state and federal governments in providing economic stimulus and support, making it clear that the council’s contribution should be designed to supplement larger contributions from these higher tiers of government.

All 11 councillors will now work with the CEO to develop the two support packages.

Mayor Stephanie Asher:

There will be more to come, but the list of support measures we’ve agreed on tonight is a good start as we look to support our local businesses and the community through this incredibly difficult time.

The council is really feeling for the businesses and people being hit hard by this crisis. As a group we’ve agreed to look at all options and do whatever we can to help. That’s likely to mean we go into deficit in next year’s budget, but if ever there’s a time to do that it’s now.

We’ll begin work immediately on finalising the two support packages and will share the details with the community as soon as they’re ready.
Councillor Anthony Aitken, Chair, Finance portfolio:

This event is the most significant most of us have encountered in our lifetime.

An important message I want to give our residents is that this council doesn’t just believe we’re an economy, we believe we’re a community. For that reason these packages won’t just be about economic assistance, they’ll also be targeted to help our community.

We need these  packages to support our sporting clubs, our senior citizens clubs, our multicultural groups, our arts and cultural community and our many, many other small community groups.

The first aim will be to survive this pandemic, and we will then move into recovery. Because at some point this health crisis will end, but the damage will take some time to repair.

Please everyone be safe and adhere to the professional health advice that we’re receiving to isolate as much as possible.

Councillor Eddy Kontelj:

These are unprecedented times and we need to take unprecedented actions to support our community. We need to get some really quick wins to try and assist the best that we can. We’re seeing incredible challenges in the community and in the CBD small businesses, restaurants and cafes are closing their doors because they can’t welcome people in. All they can do to make a living is offer takeaway.

For many people, to get that takeaway they need to drive in, and the last thing those businesses need is for their customers to have to pay for parking and make it more difficult than it can already be. So I’m pleased about the free parking measures we’ve put in to support those businesses and also our community.

In addition, the free parking will also make things that little bit less stressful for everyone who is travelling to the CBD at the moment to visit places such as the hospital, Centrelink, the doctor and essential services. Most important is the hygiene aspect, by introducing free parking people will no longer need to touch the meter. This small initiative can assist in stopping the spread of the virus.

The immediate relief we are offering in terms of Alfresco Dinning and A frame permit fee refunds for 12 months will also helpful.

I thank all of those businesses and individuals who have reached out to me personally for providing their ideas and suggestions. This is a good start, but there is so much more to do, which we will work hard on in the next several days so that we can expedite the delivery of the intended packages.

 





Page last updated: Wednesday, 25 March 2020

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