SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council’s administration panel and senior staff have designed a unique $2 million community support package to help individual residents as well as small businesses through and beyond the global COVID-19 crisis.
The COVID-19 Community Support Package forms part of the municipality’s 2020/21 draft council budget endorsed by the administration panel at the April 22,2020 ordinary meeting.
The draft budget is open for community consideration until Thursday May 28, ahead of the panel voting to adopt the final budget on Wednesday June 24, 2020.
The package includes the introduction of a COVID-19 Pandemic Rates and Charges Hardship Policy to support residents having trouble making rate repayments, and the option of interest-free rate deferrals for local businesses.
The new COVID-19 hardship policy was adopted by the panel at the April 22, 2020 ordinary council meeting.
The policy will apply for rates issued in 2019/2020 and has been added to the shire’s already existing rates and hardship and unpaid rates and charges debt recovery policies.
The COVID-19 support package will also offer an expanded community grants program with broadened criteria to allow for more grant recipients, while a new business support program will include a business grants stream.
South Gippsland Shire administration panel chair Julie Eisenbise said the community support package was “a key feature of the 2020/21 budget.
“The COVID-19 Package will provide support for our community and stimulus for our local economy both during and after the COVID-19 event,” she said.
“We are conscious that many people in our community are doing it tough right now and we would like to provide support where we can.
“The support package has been designed to help residents and businesses as well as the many community groups that are an essential part of South Gippsland.
“We have identified a number of actions that we believe will help to benefit local residents but we expect the package will also evolve as the impacts of the pandemic are determined,” Ms Eisenbise said.
“Other package features include subsidised flu shots and mental health support programs for residents, waiving of some business permit fees, and sustaining and increasing the council’s procurement from local contractors and suppliers where possible.
“We’re also looking at developing a community outreach program in partnership with key agencies to provide community support,” she said.
“The COVID-19 Support Package will be delivered by a dedicated project management team in consultation with key stakeholder groups.
“These include the Municipal Emergency Management Committee (MEMPC) and the Business Emergency Leadership Group (BELG) to ensure the actions are best placed to provide real outcomes for South Gippsland.
“We are conscious we need to look not only at what is happening now in our community but that we are planning for what happens in the months ahead,” Ms Eisenbise said.
“We are experiencing challenging times but are confident that solid support measures and our impressive community spirit will see South Gippsland come through this period of uncertainty and head toward a strong recovery.”
Administrator Christian Zahra also backed the COVID-19 support package and moved to help “the South Gippsland community and businesses in the three core areas of health, connection and innovation.”
He also called for a progress report to be tabled at the May 27 ordinary meeting outlining how the package’s first stage priorities were being put into effect, and on the planning for later stage measures.
“I think there will be broad support for this package, and it should be able to be flexible and to evolve during the next six to 12 months,” Mr Zahra said.
“The money for the COVID-19 support package is coming from two sources; $500,000 from infrastructure projects that came in under budget, and we’ll be drawing down $1.5 million from reserves,” he said.
“Please get in touch with the shire if we can assist, because we want to make sure this package goes as far as it can to help.”For more information on the proposed COVID-19 Community Support Package, contact the South Gippsland Shire Council on 5662 9200.