Council endorses further community support

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

The Greater Geelong council has endorsed a further $1.5 million in support measures and agreed to a special COVID-19Financial Hardship Policy, as it continues its efforts to help businesses, community groups and residents impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest measures add to the $3.4 million package announced in March and largely focus on providing immediate support.

The financial hardship policy will give businesses and residents who pay rates, rent, fees and/or charges to the City and are facing tough times as a result of the pandemic the ability to apply to:

  • Defer their payments for a mutually agreed period; and
  • Create a payment plan for rates that suits their individual circumstances.

The new policy also confirms that the City has stopped referring outstanding debts for debt collection and is waiving interest on all debts from 14 March until 31 October 2020.

Councillors highlighted that the policy includes the following opportunities:

  • Waiver of penalties for late payment of pet registration fees and the option to enter a payment plan;
  • The City’s commercial waste customers can suspend, cancel or amend their collection service without penalty; and
  • Event organisers can be refunded any associated fees or charges paid to the City where the event was cancelled or closed due to government COVID-19 directions.

Anyone wishing to discuss their options under the policy is invited to email [email protected] or call 5272 5272.

Other measures agreed by the council during Tuesday night’s meeting were:

  • Allocating $50,000 towards the purchase of fresh food to support food security in the region;
  • Allocating $100,000 to fast track a business case to build 100 new social housing units in Greater Geelong;
  • Allocating $80,000 for a small business online training program;
  • Establishing and operating an Arts and Culture Advisory Group to help develop targeted support to the arts and culture sector in response to COVID-19, and providing $20,000 to support this new group;
  • Allocating $30,000 to digitise the Heritage, Arts and Culture Program to support increased access online during the stay at home direction period and beyond;
  • Redeploying staff to the Finance team to help reduce payment times for contractor and supplier invoices to between seven and 14 days;
  • Extending the refund of food and health premises registration fees from three months to 12 months (estimated value $1.18 million); and
  • Extending the waiver of rent for community and sporting groups using City of Greater Geelong-owned land/grounds and buildings from August until 30 September (estimated value $90,000).

The council also supported the decision by the City’s administration to provide off-street CBD carpark permit holders the option to suspend their permits until further notice, and to provide 1000 special free all day parking permits to employees of Barwon Health’s University Hospital.

The council’s contribution to coronavirus relief through the two support packages so far is approximately $4.9 million.

Further, councillors have asked staff to investigate the following potential extra support measures and report back with recommendations:

  • Suspension of all on street car parking fees from 1 July 2020 until 31 December 2020 (report and recommendation to come before council in June);
  • Waiving rates from 1 April to 30 June for businesses that have had forced operational closure due to COVID-19 restrictions, with further review in June (report and recommendation to come before council 28 April); and
  • Waiving the Central Geelong Marketing levy from 1 April to 30 June, with those that have already paid to be given a credit towards their 2020-21 Rate and Marketing Levy Notice (report to come before council 28 April).

Council has previously committed to a third package to be delivered in June, which will be tailored around initiatives that will assist in the region’s medium- and long-term recovery.

And in line with a Notice of Motion during Tuesday night’s meeting from Councillor Anthony Aitken, the 2020-2021 Community Grants program has been suspended and will be re-tailored to focus on providing more support to the region’s recovery from COVID-19. 

Mayor Stephanie Asher

The council is doing what it can to support the community through this unbelievably challenging situation.

The measures we’re putting in place are all about providing targeted assistance where it’s most needed – including to local businesses, community groups such as sporting clubs, and our arts and culture sector, which have all suffered devastating impacts.

The new COVID-19 Financial Hardship Policy also aims to help those who most need it. Importantly, each case will be considered individually, so we encourage anyone suffering hardship to make contact with our team and have a discussion about your situation.

Councillor Anthony Aitken - Chair, Finance portfolio

Tonight councillors have demonstrated leadership by providing additional supports in our community to help people and business survive and eventually recover after COVid-19. The supports are detailed and cover a wide range of areas that we believe will help our community in Geelong.

The officers and councillors have all contributed and I look forward to bringing more supports back to the council chamber to support our community and business during the most challenging period we have ever seen in our history in Geelong.

Page last updated: Friday, 29 May 2020