Council introduces hardship support

Mitchell Shire Council has introduced new financial support options for landowners and businesses who may be unable to pay their fourth rate installment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While rates notices will be sent out soon with installments due by May 31, council is aware the ability for some residents or businesses to pay on time could be significantly diminished.

The rates news comes as the Department of Health confirmed there was nine cases of COVID-19 in the Mitchell Shire, an increase from five last week.

Victoria yesterday reached 1158 cases, and the economic impacts of the crisis is being widely felt across Australia.

People can apply for a payment extension to the end of June and further arrangements can be discussed on a case by case basis.

Council is also waiving interest charges on overdue accounts until June 30 and can provide options for people who are already on payment plans.

Council has also begun advocating to the state and federal governments to support the community and the delivery of essential services provided by councils and is in discussions with local MPs seeking increased government assistance.

Council believes the services it delivers are important for the health and safety of the community – particularly the aged and vulnerable as well as the health of the business community.

Mitchell ratepayers are also encouraged to sign up for online rates notices. Making the switch can be done online with the rates notice reference number at www.mitchellshire.vic.gov.au.

People can call 5734 6200 during business hours to request a copy of a rate notice, to register for electronic delivery, to activate hardship arrangements or to update a payment plan.

Mitchell Shire Mayor David Lowe said council understood the pandemic was causing financial stress.

“We want everyone to know there are options for them and that we will provide hardship support to anyone who needs it,” he said.

“Looking ahead beyond the fourth instalment notice, we are advocating to the state and federal governments to provide extra support to help councils continue to deliver essential services for communities and businesses, to continue to provide local jobs and to support the ongoing recovery effort.”

Member for Euroa Steph Ryan backed the call from the Hume Local Government Network, which includes Mitchell Shire Council, for State Government assistance.

Ms Ryan said helping councils reduce rates was a fast and effective way for the government to support distressed local businesses and property owners.

“Councils should be offering rate relief to distressed households, but they need the State Government to give them a hand,” she said.

“Local councils do not have the bucket loads of cash city municipalities raise from parking fees and permits, which means they are not in the same position to freeze or reduce rates without State Government support.”

Council’s 2020/21 budget is also under discussion, with a draft budget out for community consultation, and is seeking advice from the State Government as the budget will be heavily impacted by the current situation.

People are encouraged to provide input to the draft budget at www.engagingmitchellshire.com