City of Newcastle has unveiled a $5.5 million economic and community support package for the fight against coronavirus.
Grants, relief from fees, rent and rates as well as free education programs are among the raft of measures the council approved at tonight's ordinary meeting.
Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the package was designed to deliver financial and social support to the city.
"We understand that every business is suffering enormously from the impacts of COVID-19 and will likely be affected for the foreseeable future," she said.
"It's imperative, now more than ever, that we work together."
A $468,000 financial hardship support program will allow residents to take-on payment plans for rates, with all fees and charges - including interest penalties - waived until June, 2021.
It will also offer support to owner-occupier small businesses and commercial property owners who can show they will pass on the relief to their tenants.
Small businesses operating out of council-owned buildings will get a 50 per cent discount on rent for the next two quarters, accounting for $732,000 of the package.
Aside from this, $1.5 million will be spent giving businesses and individuals flexibility with a range of council fees and policies - it will also fund a commitment to keep parking fees at their existing levels across Newcastle for the next 12 months.
The City will spend more than half a million dollars lifting its 10 per cent local procurement rate over the next six months.
A community grants scheme worth $800,000 will also be set up, offering support to community groups, non-government organisations and not-for-profits.
Half a million dollars will be spent on professional development programs for small business owners and $100,000 will go towards the expansion of the city's e-library.
The council will lead a new City Taskforce, which will act as the local co-ordinating authority to oversee recovery from the impacts of the pandemic.
First, it will fund an expression of interest program aimed at developing support for the region's industries.
"This response recognises that COVID-19 will have a significant impact on the community well- being and local economy of Newcastle," Cr Nelmes said in a Lord Mayoral Minute on Tuesday evening.
"Many people may be isolated for periods of time, small businesses will face supply chain issues and substantially reduced economic activity, and the unemployment rate is likely to rise significantly.
"This situation requires us to consider how we can deliver the best possible economic and well-being outcomes for our community.
"Newcastle has a long history of dealing with economic adversity, as a community we can get through this together. It will be tough and have a huge personal impact on many, but with community thinking, we can come out the other side."
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