Help on way for local business

Council will waive almost $1.7 million in fees for local business in 2021 and fund a new $885,000 ‘Planning for Jobs’ program aimed at generating local employment.

The two initiatives form the centrepiece of just under $3.58 million in new business assistance measures agreed during Monday night’s Council meeting, part of a broader $4.18 million COVID-19 community and economic support package.

The ‘Planning for Jobs’ program will fast track planning, streamline processes and support projects that will create employment opportunities.

It will enable the City to allocate more resources to create faster planning approvals for small business, and an expansion of the existing ‘business concierge’ service to help guide applicants through the approvals process.

It also will see strategic land use planning for major employment precincts in the Avalon Corridor and North East Industrial Precinct brought forward to allow development of those precincts to happen sooner.

The support package also includes up to $500,000 for a new Business Recovery Grants scheme, offering grants of up to $10,000 to help small businesses re-establish and recover in the wake of COVID-19 restrictions.

And it allocates an extra $155,000 for the existing Arts, Culture and Heritage Recovery Grants program, which was established by the Council in June with an initial budget of $150,000.

The full list of business support initiatives agree as part of the package is as follows:

  • Food registration fee waiver for 2021 ($1.32 million);
  • Health premise fee waiver for 2021 ($250,000);
  • A-frame fee waiver for 2021 ($88,000);
  • Alfresco fee waiver for 2021 ($39,000);
  • Planning for Jobs initiative ($885,000);
  • Business Recovery Grants (up to $500,000);
  • Extra funding for COVID-19 Arts, Culture and Heritage Recovery Grants ($155,000);
  • Town centre activation surveys ($30,000);
  • Short-term parking for businesses ($10,000);
  • COVID-19 recovery marketing and communications ($100,000); and
  • Outdoor dining and activation initiatives (up to $200,000).

Initiatives related to outdoor dining and activation, including the Alfresco fee waiver, will potentially be funded through the $500,000 available to the City under the Victorian Government’s Outdoor Eating and Entertainment Package.

Separately, the City’s CEO (under delegation from the Council) has already made the decision to provide ongoing targeted rent relief to tenants in Council-owned buildings beyond 30 November.

Monday night’s package adds to the $12.8 million in relief and recovery initiatives released since March, taking the total value of the Council’s COVID-19 support to more than $16.9 million.

Councillor Trent Sullivan:

The COVID-19 restrictions have had a huge impact on local business, and the effects will continue to be felt well beyond this year. There’s been significant support from the state and federal governments, but the Council has recognised it has a role to play as well.

Through this package we’ve extended support to small business into 2021, while the ‘Planning for Jobs’ initiative will help speed up new business applications and generate employment at a time it’s desperately needed.

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