City extends help for those in financial pain

Jackson Lavell-LeeBusselton Dunsborough Times
The City of Busselton will continue to provide waivers and concessions to residents struggling financially due to COVID-19
Camera IconThe City of Busselton will continue to provide waivers and concessions to residents struggling financially due to COVID-19

City of Busselton residents experiencing financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic can continue to apply for City debt write-offs of up to $50,000.

The City of Busselton council unanimously approved the extension of the COVID-19 Financial Hardship Policy on Wednesday night.

The measures give chief executive Mike Archer the power to defer, grant discounts and waive or write off debts of up to $50,000 for COVID-19 related financial hardship applications.

The policy also reinstates the power to write off debts of up to $2000 for other applications for waivers or write-offs. The powers are only applicable during the WA State of Emergency Declaration.

Residents can apply for a waiver or concession by submitting a COVID-19 financial hardship application on the City’s website, with each “considered solely on its merits”.

The City received a total of 68 applications between April 1 and June 30 via its online application process.

Ratepayers have saved $63,742 in commercial rent expenses, $3194 in rates-related applications and $21,267 in community group deferrals.

The City will apply, where appropriate, the WA Code of Conduct in relation to lease and rental agreements, both commercial or residential.

The policy also introduces weekly, fortnightly and monthly payment options for rates payments.

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam welcomed the continued policy but said it was disappointing that those not facing hardship would be charged the maximum rate.

“It is disappointing that the City has elected to charge the maximum capped rate of 5.5 per cent for those who wish to pay by instalments but are not in hardship and 8 per cent for late payments as set out by the Local Government Amendment (COVID-19 Response) Act 2020,” she said. City of Busselton director of finance and corporate services Tony Nottle said the City was mindful of the concept of “we are all in this together”, halving the instalment interest for those not eligible for a COVID-19 related waiver.

“We need to bear in mind that those people who are experiencing financial hardship will pay zero per cent interest on instalments,” he said.

“The 8 per cent only applies to outstanding rate payments for residents who are not experiencing hardship.”

The City’s 2020-21 annual budget has provision for the costs associated with financial hardship applications.

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