Highland residents and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic will be able to put off paying their rates for the next six months under a financial support package announced by Council today.
The rates deferral for businesses and residents is part of an estimated $700,000 suite of measures announced by Mayor Duncan Gair and General Manager Ann Prendergast.
“We’re acutely aware that many businesses across our Shire have had to either reduce the services they normally offer, temporarily close or even lay off staff as this crisis continues to unfold,” Mayor Gair said.
“These measures are designed to help alleviate the financial burden on those businesses and residents hardest hit as a result of the COVID-19 emergency and provide them with one less issue to worry about.”
General Manager Ann Prendergast said Council’s support plan was designed to build on the measures already announced by the State and Federal Governments.
“Our package is specifically designed to help local residents, community groups and businesses,” she said.
Council’s initial COVID-19 community and business financial support package includes:
- Rates deferred for all business-rated properties for the next six (6) months starting 1 April 2020. This will apply where the property owner runs a business from the premise or provides a rent deferral period for business tenants.
- Rates deferred for all property owners who have lost employment or been stood down due to the Federal Government’s enforced business closures for the next six (6) months. Three (3) year repayment period provided.
- Removal of all interest charges on overdue rates and charges (including water and sewer) for a period of 12 months commencing 1 April 2020.
- Provision of rental subsidy for six (6) months for Council-owned properties which are occupied by a small business or organisation impacted by the Federal Government’s enforced business closures.
- Provision of fee reduction for all outdoor dining areas, materials on footpaths and environment and health inspections commencing 1 April 2020 for a period of six (6) months.
In addition to the above measures Council will also suspend all existing debt recovery actions on outstanding rates and charges until the pandemic has passed.
Ms Prendergast said the total relief package was estimated at $700,000.
“We know that these measures will result in a hit to Council’s cash flow,” she said. “But right now, it’s more important than ever to help our community throughout these unprecedented times.”
“With this in mind I’ll also be ensuring that local suppliers continue to be paid within seven days and local businesses still receive a 10 per cent weighted preference for all quoted works and services.
“We’re particularly mindful that Council is a sizeable employer and spender in our local economy,” Ms Prendergast added. “It’s therefore more important than ever that we keep operating and continue to support one another through these challenging days.”
“We also know that this crisis is affecting everybody differently and I’d remind our ratepayers of our Financial Hardship Policy which allows us to look at individual circumstances on a case-by-case basis.”
Mayor Gair also thanked his fellow councilors for supporting the Highlands community.
“The speed at which this crisis has unfolded has caused massive disruption on a global scale,” he said.
“Council isn’t immune to these disruptions and I thank all councillors for priorisitising and supporting these economic relief measures designed to help our citizens.”
Businesses or residents wishing to apply for Council’s COVID-19 Economic Relief Package or discuss their individual circumstances should call Council’s Revenue Team on phone 4868 0888.