Millions for virus recovery

By Jessica Micallef

A recovery fund to support the community and local businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic has been approved as part of the Hume and Macedon Ranges’ 2020-21 budget.

Hume councillors endorsed the final budget last week, which includes an $11.5 million stimulus package to assist businesses, sporting clubs, community groups and ratepayers recover from coronavirus.

The package includes a rate waiver of $50 for residential and rural properties, funding for food parcels and essential items for families in financial hardship, grants for small and medium businesses, rent relief for tenants occupying council facilities and fee waivers and grants for local sporting clubs.

Cr Karen Sherry said the economic effects of the virus were going to progress longer then the pandemic.

“Now more than ever, we are required to balance the fiscal responsibility with making provisions for our city’s future needs,” she said.

“We need to fund capital works in the future to meet the growing demands of the city and the people.

“The COVID-19 epidemic will continue to be felt in Hume after the health crisis is gone [and] we are ready to meet the challenges.

“There has never been a more important time for council to invest in critical projects, our community’s needs and to create jobs for our local people.”

More than $10 million has been allocated towards car parking across the municipality, including building a multi-deck carpark at the corner of Station and Evans streets in Sunbury and new indented parking bays on narrow streets and resurfacing of existing carparks across the city.

Cr Jana Taylor said the council had demonstrated its ability to utilise the budget in a “reactive way” in a time of crisis.

“At a very base level, these works will endeavor to make our footpaths walkable, our bike paths rideable, our bridges crossable and our open spaces fun and engaging,” she said.

The Macedon Ranges 2020-21 budget has allocated $1.1 million in a COVID-19 recovery fund which includes the deferral of late fees on animal registrations, waiver of footpath permit renewals and additional funding to the council’s existing grant programs.

Key projects funded in the budget include stage two of the Romsey Ecotherapy Park and the Macedon Ranges Regional Sports Precinct.

Hume and Macedon Ranges’ 2020-21 budget includes a rate increase of two per cent, in line with the state-imposed rate cap.