Package backs local business

Michelle Slater

Latrobe City Council has announced an immediate short-term emergency business and community support package in response to COVID-19 shutdowns.

Council is also establishing a help desk for local businesses to call a support line to help navigate council assistance or any government links.

Latrobe City councillors passed the package as a matter of urgent business at their April meeting on Monday.

Mayor Dan Clancey encouraged local businesspeople to contact council.

“These are dire times for the community,” Cr Clancey said at the meeting.

“There will be help available, please contact us if you are struggling.”

The new package comes with a raft of supports that include waiving fees and rent reductions for small to medium businesses, sporting clubs and community groups.

It was designed in conjunction with councillors and Latrobe Valley traders groups with a report due at the end of June to see if more measures would still need to be rolled out.

Traralgon Chamber of Commerce president Luke Henderson said he was pleased local traders could provide feedback on the measures.

However, he warned that more time would be needed to understand the impact on businesses in the next few months.

“It’s extremely difficult for businesses to continue to trade, some have been forced to close, but there are inspirational stories of how some people are continuing to trade,” Mr Henderson told The Express.

“This is testament to the local area how strong our businesses are, the community is supporting local people and this great as they are continuing to do what they can.”

The package’s key points include refunding permit charges for street trading and outdoor dining establishments from March 1 to June 30.

It will provide rent reductions for cafe and restaurants operating out of council owned buildings until in-house dining bans are lifted.

Rent and fees will be waived for sporting clubs using council facilities through winter, and rent will be suspended for community groups that use council facilities from March 1 to June 30.

Latrobe City will develop a COVID-19 Financial Hardship Policy for to consider hardship circumstances for rates, fines and fees on investment and commercial properties.

Cr Dale Harriman said the package would help more than 680 local businesses and nearly 100 sporting clubs.

“We understand it’s starting to hurt. While this doesn’t do everything, it’s a first stage. We had to move fairly quickly to come up with something and we believe this hits the spot of a number of issues,” Cr Harriman said.

“This is something every councillor has worked on and had a hand into as a major issue that taken up a lot of councillors’ time.”