Almost $1 million in household and commercial rate payments have been deferred and substantial rent relief has been extended to small businesses and community organisations under City of Newcastle’s COVID-19 support package. (Above: Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes with Craig Budden at Baptist Care Hope Street's Wallsend Centre, which received $25,000 in support through the City's Rapid Response grants last month.)
The $965,000 in rate deferrals have been made under 410 separate payment plans set up by both residents and businesses in consultation with the City as part of the $5.5 million Community and Economic Resilience Package adopted by Council in March.
Fifty per cent rent reductions on City-owned buildings have eased the total burden on tenants by $28,000 a week, while around $450,000 has been allocated in grants to enable the community sector to support the most vulnerable in our city.
Free online training, a $100,000 e-Library expansion and firm commitment to a record capital works program, with an emphasis on local procurement and quick payments, are also part of the package.
“In supporting the city, we are focusing on areas where local government has a clear strength and mandate, and it’s pleasing to see the take up has been strong to date,” Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.
“As well as the interest-free rate deferrals for up to 15 months, we have rolled out an $800,000 grants program to boost the community sector and halved rents to provide much-needed relief for small businesses in City-owned buildings.
“We understand that every business is suffering enormously right now and have provided as much support as possible as a local council.
“Many in in our community are now unemployed and the elderly and those without family may become more vulnerable as they stay isolated, so we will further promote the City’s existing financial hardship policies and support the taskforce of City leaders to map out the local economic recovery.”
Council will help small business owners and staff undertake professional development training and accreditation as part of a $500,000 education package.
This follows a 213 per cent increase in usage of an online learning package offered through Newcastle Libraries, with 2,291 sessions streamed free of charge in April.
The Libraries’ membership has increased by more than 1,000 during the pandemic after the City invested $60,000 in 5,800 additional e-book and audiobook titles, plus new video streaming platform ‘Medici TV’.
For the latest updates on the City of Newcastle’s response to the COVID-19 and changes to services, visit www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/covid-19