The ACT Government’s $214 million economic relief package for households, businesses and frontline health includes a spate of rent and rate relief support schemes and a COVID-19 field hospital among the key announcements.
This second economic support package, on top of the government’s $137 million initial announcement, takes the Territory’s total economic support spend to over $350 million in a six-month period, approximately 10% of the ACT’s annual budget.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the package comes on the back of working closely with other Australian governments – state, territory and federal – to create a cohesive, complementary policy offering.
Tax and rent relief for households and businesses
Substantial rent and rate relief will be offered to Canberra households and businesses that have experienced a drop in income of 30% or more as a result of a loss of work, loss of hours, or reduction in small business income.
“We have structured our support to ensure their tax rebates, wavers, deferrals, fee relief and cash direct to businesses and households, and other financial support, is targeted to those who need it most,” Mr Barr said.
The ACT Government will provide a land tax and residential rates rebate to landlords who reduce their rents by at least 25%.
The government will provide a 50/50 matching arrangement with landlords where they will be provided with direct tax relief to the equivalent of around $100 per week, or $1,300 over the quarter.
“With landlords matching that, tenants could expect to save up to $200 a week in rent if they are impacted by COVID-19,” Mr Barr said.
However, if your income hasn’t changed expect to continue paying rent as normal.
Owner occupiers will have no interest applied to their 12-month deferrals where a household income has dropped by at least 25% as a result of a loss of work, loss of hours, or reduction in small business income.
The government is also delaying the issuing of general rates notices for the 2019/20 fourth quarter, residential rates and land tax assessments, by a four-week period.
For businesses, the Chief Minister announced a scheme to provide relief for business tenants and owner-operated commercial properties.
Depending on the level of hardship commercial tenants are facing, landlords will be eligible to apply for a waiver or rebate on their commercial rates, tied to the rental relief passed onto their tenants.
Mr Barr said this scheme will give his government capacity to deliver a “case by case, business by business tailored approach” to assist those most impacted.
“The government cannot offer this support alone and commercial landlords will need to play their part.
“Most will not be making money through this period, and cost-sharing or the deferrals of losses will have to occur between government, landlords, tenants and financial institutions,” the Chief Minister said.
The finalities of the scheme are still under negotiation with key stakeholders in coming days and will be subjected to final National Cabinet deliberations tomorrow morning.
Other relief policies specific to industries were announced including the community club sector, construction industry, taxi industry and more.
Frontline health services receive $126 million injection
The ACT Government also announced a substantial cash injection for frontline health services to prepared for an influx of patients requiring life-saving treatment as a result of COVID-19 in the coming months.
Among the projects is the previously announced construction and operation of the $23-million, temporary, dedicated COVID-19 field hospital.
Further measures the government is funding to prepare for the spread of COVID-19 include:
- Health facility infrastructure, flexing the bed base in Canberra Health Services by an additional 131 beds, and supporting Calvary Public Hospital to deliver dedicated COVID-19 wards and expanded ICU capacity
- Working closely with the Territory’s private hospitals to identify all available capacity across the health system to deliver a coordinated response
- Personal protective equipment and other medical supplies for our doctors and nurses
- Establishment of respiratory clinics and additional equipment
- A 24/7 radiography service
- The Emergency Operations Centre
- Enhanced operational capacity for health protection services including contact tracing and COVID-19 testing.
More government investment in health services and infrastructure can be expected to follow.
A full list of the economic survival measures announced is available here.