Relief for ratepayers and local businesses are among a comprehensive set measures announced by the City of Newcastle in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Approved by council on Tuesday night, the $5,5million package included interest-free payment plans for rates, rent reductions on council-owned buildings, free online training programs and a boost to the City’s infrastructure program.
“We understand that every business is suffering enormously from the impacts of COVID-19 and will likely be affected for the foreseeable future,” Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.
“It’s imperative, now more than ever, that we work together.”
The package will provide a $468,000 financial hardship program that will allow residents to arrange payment plans for rates. Further, all fees and charges including interest penalties will be waived until June 30 2021.
It will also offer support to owner-occupier commercial ratepayers or commercial property owners who can demonstrate the reduction will be passed to tenants.
$732,000 of the package will be dedicated to providing rent relief for small business operating in council-woned buildings with a 50 per cent reduction in rent for the next two quarters.
Meanwhile, $1.5million will be allocated to give businesses and individuals flexibility on a range of council fees, including the waiving of library fees, and maintaining hourly parking rates at current levels.
An $800,000 community grants scheme will be established to support not-for-profit, non-government and community organisations while $100,000 will be dedicated to the expansion of existing library services.
$500,000 will be allocated to online training programs to support small business owners and staff to undertake professional development training and accreditation while a further $500,000 will establish a city taskforce to act as the local coordinating authority to oversee future recovery phases.
The Taskforce will initially fund an Expression of Interest program to provide support to targeted local industries.
Also, $150,000 will be used to create the “Lean In Newy” app that will enable social actions such as volunteering to be pushed out to our local community
Council will also increase the local weighting assessment (currently 10 per cent) in its procurement policy for the next six months and invoices from existing contracts with local suppliers will be processed within seven days as soon as approved.
“We are embracing community thinking,” Cr Nelmes said.
“The City of Newcastle is a community that cares and looks after each other. We will continue to promote and facilitate equitable access to services and facilities.”
Head here for more information on the City Of Newcastle’s COVID-19 response package.