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City businesses to receive free support for COVID-19 recovery

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Over 5000 small businesses are set to receive free access to an advice hotline, mental health support and online coaching as part of an Adelaide City Council and Business SA partnership to help the city rebound after COVID-19.

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The support package, which will be delivered over the next two years, also includes accounting and compliance support, grant and tender advice, learning webinars and networking events.

Start-ups and small to medium-sized businesses in the CBD and North Adelaide will have access to the advice hotline three times each year, while the other services will only be provided once a year at no cost.  

Additional access to the services will be available through Business SA at a discounted rate.

The council, which is funding the package, would not tell InDaily today the cost to ratepayers, citing commercial confidentiality.

It comes as the council considers waiving all rates for small businesses forced to close as a result of COVID-19 restrictions up until the end of August, or halving rates for businesses that lost over 50 per cent of their income.

The council is also considering introducing a separate support package costing $1.7 million per quarter, to assist the hotel and accommodation sectors recover after a sharp decline in bookings.

A council analysis of the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on different sectors shows function venues and backpacker accommodation will be affected for the longest period of time – up to six months.

Health studios, serviced apartments, shops and showrooms are estimated to be impacted by restrictions for the least amount of time, at three months.

The council is yet to determine how many city businesses were forced to shut due to COVID-19, or how many businesses have reopened following the gradual lifting of restrictions.

Rundle Mall management says over 90 per cent of its traders and businesses have re-opened after many – including retail giant Myer – were forced to temporarily close.  

The retail sector rakes in the most rates revenue for the council – over $16.7 million each year – followed by the hotel accommodation industry, which brings in over $5.2 million in rates, and restaurants, which generate over $2.4 million in rates.  

Rates revenue and estimated restriction impacts on city businesses. Information: Adelaide City Council

The council has received 160 applications for rates deferrals in the past three months – over 70 per cent of which have come from commercial ratepayers.

Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor said the city business support package with Business SA would provide businesses with “expert advice” to survive COVID-19.  

We recognise the vital role our city and North Adelaide businesses play in growing the state’s economy – which is more important now than ever,” she said.

“It’s crucial businesses and all levels of government work together to do all we can to ensure South Australia can weather this economic storm.”

Verschoor told a budget meeting earlier this week that she would like the council to introduce “very targeted support packages” for different industries beyond the hotel sector.

 She also suggested the council introduce longer-term rates repayment periods for businesses or residents who request deferrals.

“I would like us to explore a longer-term repayment period where it is an amortisation of rates as opposed to a strict deferral,” she said.

“I’d be very keen for us to look at a scenario where we can actually amortise the rates over a greater period of time – up to two years or however long we’re going through this.” 

The council in March announced a $4 million support package that included waiving rent for tenants of council-owned properties and the Central Market for three months.

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