Residents in the Queanbeyan-Palerang Shire will be able to defer rate instalments and extend regular rate payments over two years as part of a range of strategies to assist residents, businesses and community organisations overcome the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The relief options also include the waiver of interest charges under approved payment plans for residents who may be struggling to pay their rates.
The relief measures agreed to by Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council last week allow for separate measures that will also assist businesses and community organisations
QPRC mayor Cr Tim Overall said while councils are not able to waive or rebate rate charges, council has identified measures to provide assistance where it can.
“The immediate focus during the COVID-19 pandemic is on the health and safety of our community and our staff, but the financial impacts are being felt across our local government area,” Cr Overall said.
Additionally, the council will seek to access government reserves of additional personal protective equipment and resources to undertake surface cleaning across all public areas of the community and encourage government departments to bring forward investments into regional centres.
Mayor Overall said the Council will lobby the State and Federal governments to provide further financial assistance to the business and community sector. This would be in the form of additional financial assistance grants, increased eligibility for the JobKeeper program, relaxation of development contribution reserve restrictions, and confirmation of drought and bushfire recovery payments.
QPRC has also closed a number of public-facing services and facilities to protect its staff and customers. Further details of these can be found the QPRC website’s coronavirus page.
For most staff, it is business as usual where possible.
“As we are considered an essential service, we are continuing to maintain our roads, parks, reserves and facilities, and provide a range of services including water, sewer and waste, phone and online customer service, and development assessments and inspections,” Mayor Overall said.
The assistance measures for residents and ratepayers includes:
- Hardship relief to residential and business ratepayers, and employees who have lost their jobs and businesses or have been restricted in trade as a consequence of government orders. That same relief continues to apply for farms as a consequence of the drought and other properties damaged or destroyed by the bushfires.
- Deferral of the proposed Bungendore and Braidwood stormwater levy ($20 per year) and associated works by a year
- Working with local service providers for a coordinated COVID-19/bushfire neighbourhood program in support of vulnerable members of the community to assist with drop-offs, call-ins and the like.
- Not applying the forthcoming increase in councillor and mayor fees for an initial period of six months.
For businesses and community organisations, the council will:
- Waive or defer rents for commercial operators leasing council property who can demonstrate financial distress due to COVID-19, in line with Commonwealth/State Government codes.
- Continue to waive footpath and related fees for businesses.
- Continue to provide online business planning, marketing and other support to local businesses.
- Defer the Bungendore-Braidwood Treasure Trail tourism campaign until residents and visitors are permitted to travel freely.
- Offer deferred developer contributions for commercial development applications in the recovery period.
Council is also setting up a COVID Kindness support service, which is being run by its community development team. Coordinator Kyla Harvey said anyone struggling with stress, food relief, finances or may just be worried about a neighbour can call the council’s on their regular number on 1300 735 025 until a dedicated hotline is operational.
Ms Harvey said the COVID Kindness hotline will allow the broader community to access support networks without any input from council.
That includes services for Aboriginal and aged people, youth, family and children, people with disabilities, religious support, collection of food and medicines, delivery of meals, domestic violence, food relief, finance and employment, multilingual services and mental health support.
The service is even available if you just need a friendly chat and will be staffed by compassionate council employees.
Inquiries can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.