The Greater Geelong Council has agreed to another major Community and Economic Support Package, totalling almost $5.2 million in value.
The package aims to accelerate Greater Geelong’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in the medium- and long-term by providing assistance where it’s most needed.
It offers support to the region’s hardest hit sectors, including hospitality, tourism, and arts and culture, as well as international students, local businesses and the broader community.
Added to the $5.6 million in immediate relief announced in March and April, the Council has now allocated around $10.8 million towards direct COVID-19 support
for the Greater Geelong community.
The measures agreed by the council during Tuesday night’s meeting are as follows:
Free parking in 2P spaces in central Geelong: $3.16 million (estimated)
Continuation of free parking in 2P spaces in central Geelong until 31 December 2020. From 1 January 2021, resumption of free 30-minute parking in 2P spaces, until 30 June 2021.
Tourism and Events campaigns: $500,000
To support three targeted tourism and events campaigns aimed at attracting visitation in the current environment: a Domestic Short Break campaign ($200,000), a Visiting Family and Friends campaign ($150,000) and a Business Events Program ($150,000)
Heritage, Arts and Culture initiatives: $490,000
A range of initiatives recommended by the Geelong COVID-19 Arts Recovery (G-CAR) panel, including skills and training ($30,000), employment opportunities in creative industries ($330,000) and grants ($150,000).
Kardinia pool winter opening: $300,000
For Kardinia Aquatic Centre
to remain open throughout July, August and September, allowing increased opportunity for lap swimmers while gathering limits at pools remain in place.
COVID-19 Quick Response Grants for community groups: $250,000
Allows for 125 grants
of up to $2000. Aims to help community groups reactivate their venues and programs.
Targeted commercial rent relief: $232,000 (estimated)
Waiver of rent for the next three months for commercial tenants of Council-owned buildings who have been most impacted by the pandemic.
Support for international students: $133,000
A range of initiatives aimed at reducing the isolation and hardship faced by international students in Geelong.
Small Business Expert Support Program: $100,000
Continuation of the program started in March
, providing free expert advice to local businesses in financial management, digital marketing and HR, as well as industry-specific mentoring. The program has so far been taken up by more than 300 businesses.
Continue the COVID-19 Financial Hardship Policy
Opportunity for businesses and individuals to defer rates, fees and charges owing to the City. Call 5272 5272 or email [email protected]
to discuss your options.
The free 2P parking and Kardinia Pool initiatives were introduced as part of an amendment from Councillor Eddy Kontelj.
The heritage, arts and culture initiatives will be partially funded from the reallocation of commitments for Geelong After Dark ($90,000), Mountain to Mouth ($100,000) and Public Art ($70,000).
The remainder of funding for the support package has been added to the final 2020-21 Budget
Mayor Stephanie Asher:
This is a very deliberate and heavily debated set of support initiatives that aim to provide practical assistance, lift morale and set Greater Geelong on a faster path to recovery.
Councillor Eddy Kontelj:
We appreciate that the business sector, arts and tourism industries and our community morale have all been particularly affected and our intention is to provide targeted support addressing those critical areas.
In terms of Councillor Kontelj’s amendment, the continuation of both free 2P on-street parking and availability of the outdoor 50m pool respond to our determination to support local businesses and the health of our community.
The pandemic has had a significant impact on businesses and the community. There’s no doubt many businesses are hurting and bleeding, and the next six months are still very uncertain. This is a time for Council to dig deeper, rather than pull back.
The free parking initiative introduced as part of my amendment is a small way we can have a very big impact, by supporting central Geelong businesses and reducing the financial burden on the community. One of the best ways we can support the community is to stop charging them unnecessarily.
The consultation I have conducted with the community has overwhelmingly indicated strong support for free parking, with people saying it will encourage them to visit, shop and do business in the CBD. Central Geelong business owners have also consistently told me free parking will help them make it through this very difficult situation they’re continuing to face.
This package is an investment in our community, and an investment in lives and livelihoods and that’s what Council work is all about.