THE City of Whittlesea administrators voted unanimously in favour of a provisional allocation of $1 million towards the city’s COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts at last week’s council meeting.

Included in the allocation is a further $300,000 on top of the $200,000 already assigned to council’s COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund to help the city’s non-government organisations to continue to provide food, clothing, blankets and access to support services for residents during metropolitan Melbourne’s extended stage-four lockdown.

Council also set aside $500,000 for a Business Relief and Resilience Program to help businesses withstand the lockdown period.

Administrator chair Lydia Wilson said the allocations reflected council’s commitment to helping residents and businesses through the COVID-19 crisis.

“We are very pleased to commit a further $300,000 to fund a second stage of our COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund that was established in April and has already helped nearly 6000 people living in our city,” she said.

“The initial $200,000 Emergency Relief Fund is almost exhausted, having provided financial grants to 18 non-government organisations on the front line of delivering basic material goods and support services to people in need at this very challenging time.

“We are also very pleased to announce $500,000 to support our local businesses who continue to experience a very tough time due to ongoing closures and reduced trade.

“The Business Relief and Resilience Program will provide financial support and local economic stimulus initiatives to help maintain business viability, re-activate our shopping precincts and boost our local economy.”

Acting chief executive Joe Carbone said council would mentor business to help them adapt to the challenges of COVID-19.

“The pandemic remains very much in the response and relief phase and council continues to play a strong role in that phase,” he said.

“The activation of spaces in and around businesses will be a key theme that will drive our business assistance grants approach.

“There will be opportunities for businesses to get creative, and for council to be creative alongside our businesses with how we can encourage more people to visit and transact with local businesses.

“Funding is available to all of our non-government organisations, including CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) and Indigenous groups that are providing direct support to the people living in the City of Whittlesea.”

Ms Wilson said funding allocations had been considered based on gaps in other financial support available and in consultation with front-line agencies, the broader community and local businesses via surveys and other engagement activities and insights.

“We knew that the recovery phase of COVID-19 was still a long way off when the State Government re-introduced stage-three restrictions in July and soon after, these current and very strict stage-four containment measures came into effect,” she said.

“Our community and our local businesses are experiencing wide-scale socio-economic impacts that are not subsiding and we need to provide further relief and response measures now.”