Moonee Valley Council has voted to provide $5 million of support for businesses, community groups and the wider community impacted by COVID-19.
The support offered by Council for businesses, many of which were forced to close from 23 March, includes rent relief for commercial tenants of Council owned buildings, waiving fees for some permits and food services, and suspending special rates schemes for traders in retail precincts.
A financial hardship policy will also assist residents and businesses struggling to pay rates and other fees.
Community groups that are tenants of Council facilities will not be required to pay rent or user fees.
Increases to fees and charges for 2020/21 will be suspended and meals services will be available to residents experiencing hardship.
Charges for facilities that are not available during the State of Emergency will be suspended.
Under the financial hardship policy, Council will not pursue, through debt collection, fees, rates, and other charges owed by businesses or residents experiencing financial hardship.
At the conclusion of the State of Emergency, outstanding debts will not be subject to interest for the State of Emergency period.
Financial hardship is defined as difficulty paying fees as a result of reduced income.
Council has also redirected $250,000 worth of community grants funding towards a COVID-19 Recovery Grants Program to run until June 2021, suspending the existing community grants program until this time.
More information on making applications to the grants program will be forthcoming.
The hardship measures adopted by Council are based on an assumption that normal activities will not resume until 1 January 2021 and this will need to be revisited as the length of the current restrictions becomes clearer.
Council notes that about 60 percent of Council’s usual delivery has been impacted, and that 60 of Council’s casual employees have been put out of work.
There are areas of increased demand (IT, OHS, emergency management), but 79 permanent staff are currently affected by services not operating.
Council’s plans assume that COVID-19 infection rates may continue to increase and staff may become ill and unable to work. This does not appear to reflect the more recent decline in case numbers of COVID-19 in Victoria.
Victorian agencies are required to use approved public health messaging for communications and Council defers to the DHHS website as “the single source of truth for information about the pandemic and state of emergency”.
Council says it “has committed to ensuring the health and safety of its community, and now plays an important role in supporting the community to adapt, heal and recover”.
“The community at large are feeling anxious and isolated during this difficult and uncertain period, with normal social networks and supports being affected.”
Many of Council’s services are not currently operating including community and arts and leisure facilities.
Only 10 percent of Council’s disability programs are continuing through virtual delivery.
Community transport is also down to 10 percent providing transport for essential appointments.
Council’s personal care for older residents remains at 100 percent, but home-based care has been reduced to 20 percent for vulnerable clients only. Seniors programs have ceased.
There is no reference to officer-implemented changes to off-leash dog parks in the Council reports.