Town of Port Hedland announce $3.1m COVID-19 support package: What to know

Sam JonesNorth West Telegraph
Town of Port Hedland chief executive Carl Askew.
Camera IconTown of Port Hedland chief executive Carl Askew. Credit: Cally Dupe/Cally Dupe

The Town of Port Hedland will seek to provide relief from the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic with their $3.1 million COVID-19 Community Support Package.

Passed at today’s ordinary council meeting the package included a freeze on rates, fees and charges, rent relief for Town properties and a slew of funds aimed at assisting small business and community groups.

Town of Port Hedland commissioner Fred Riebeling said the package would provide efficient and effective support to the areas hardest hit by the pandemic, being small business and community groups.

“The Federal Government has imposed severe social distancing restrictions to help manage the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

“These restrictions are impacting the whole community, the majority of local sporting and service groups have been forced to postpone or cancel their respective activities, and small businesses have been forced to close.

“This has severely impacted on their ability to raise income to cover their ongoing costs and will place many of them in financial stress.”

The package is estimated to cost more than $2 million in forgone revenue, with an additional $985,000 transfer from the Town’s financial risk reserve to help fund grants.

The support will be reassessed for the June budget, with the possibility of more measures acknowledged.

What to know

Rates freeze

Rates on residential and commercial land will be frozen for the 2020/21 financial year, in line with direction from the State Government.

This does not mean you will not have to pay rates, there will simply be no increase on the previous financial year.

Usually, rates would increase in a manner consistent with consumer price index, however the Town said the decision to freeze rates was an easy and effective way of limiting future financial hardship.

Fees and charges freeze

Similar to the rates on rate increases, the freeze on fees and charges would see no increase in the amount for the 2020/21 financial year.

Again, you still have to pay the fees and charges, there just won’t be the normal yearly increase — which is also usually tied to the consumer price index.

Rent relief for Town properties

The Town will consider providing rent relief for commercial leases on Town properties.

Relief will be considered on a case by case basis, a loss of income due to COVID-19 must have occurred for applicants to be eligible.

Community Group Assistance Fund

The Community Group Assistance Fund will provide financial support to community groups through grants, capped at $10,000 per applicant.

The intention of the fund is to assist the groups with providing their service in a different format, like taking an in-person service online, and to allow organisations to seek financial advice on how to support themselves during the pandemic.

Support Local Business Assistance Fund

Much like the CGAF, the Support Local Business Assistance Fund will provide financial support for small businesses, capped at $10,000.

Businesses will be required to explain how the funds would be used in their submission and a substantial reduction in turnover or profit.

Grants will also not be permitted to be used for purposes which other government assistance is already available, such as electricity accounts or payment of employees.

Reduction in creditor payment terms

In effect for three months, until the end of July 2020, the Town will half the time they take to pay contracts from 30 days to 15 days.

The Town said the aim of this measure was to help cash flows of local small businesses who had seen a decrease in business elsewhere.

Refund booking fees

The Town will continue to refund any bookings made at Town facilities which are now closed or for events which do not meet social distancing requirements.

At the time of writing more than $10,000 in refunds have been given.

Progress payments on existing contracts affected by COVID-19

For contracts which did not have progress payments written into the contract the Town will work with suppliers and consider partial payments of goods received.

Waive fees and charges payable for small business

Small businesses fees and charges payable to the Town will be waived, with the agenda acknowledging that some businesses have lost a majority of their revenue due to restrictions placed on certain industries.

The Town said the objective was to provide some relief and minimise operational costs required when businesses reopen to normal trading.

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