MP calls for COVID-19 regional recovery grants for councils
Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has called on the Prime Minister to deliver a portion of its $1 billion COVID-19 Coronavirus economic response package for the regions through grants to local government.
“Not in the living memory of many Australians have we experienced such a health crisis and an economic crisis in one event, and so now more than ever we need to deliver targeted support to our communities,” Rebekha said.
“When we look at which organisations are already meeting community needs directly through targeted community programs, it is often local government.
“I know my regional councils have carried out extraordinary community work during first the drought and then the bushfires.
“The Federal Government provided $1 million grants to councils through drought and bushfire assistance funding and I believe they should do the same with coronavirus.
“Local government often know which members of the community are vulnerable and isolated and they work closely with small NGOs if they are not providing the service delivery themselves, such as through social wellbeing programs.
“I'm deeply concerned that, without the community wellbeing support that will need to be delivered in different ways than it currently is; we will lose more people to mental health issues, exacerbated by loneliness and isolation, than potentially to coronavirus itself.
“Similarly, local government already supports the development of local industry groups such as tourism and agriculture, and is well placed to identify local solutions for local needs through their extensive and already well established networks.”
On 22 March the Government announced a second set of economic responses to COVID-19, including $1 billion to support regions most significantly affected by the Coronavirus outbreak. These funds are to be available to assist both during the outbreak and the recovery.
Rebekha has this week written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to request that some of that funding be delivered through grants to local government.
The Mayo MP has also written to the Minister for Emergency Management, David Littleproud, to request that the Government expand its current $10,000 grant scheme for eligible small businesses affected by bushfires.
At present the only eligible local government area in South Australia is Kangaroo Island.
Rebekha would like the scheme to include other bushfire-affected localities that have now been hit by the economic fall-out of COVID-19.
"I have asked for the scheme to be expanded to the Mount Barker District Council and Adelaide Hills Council.
"To be eligible under the current scheme, businesses must have experienced a 40 per cent drop in revenue over a three-month period compared to the previous year, as a result of the bushfires.
"I have no doubt that small business in Mount Barker District Council and Adelaide Hills Council districts have now been hit with a double-blow thanks to the coronavirus.
“In Mayo, the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island regions rely heavily on tourism and agriculture to sustain their local economies and the compounding effect of the bushfires followed closely by the Coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on these communities.”