Almost 200 people have sought rate relief from the Warrnambool City Council in the wake of the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus lockdowns.
Mayor Tony Herbert said 190 people had applied to defer their rates, and staff were in the process of working through all the applications.
It's a huge jump from early April, when Cr Herbert said 24 people had applied to defer their rates, all of which had been approved.
Cr Herbert said a "fairly big" number of the 190 were still being assessed.
He said the council was working to make sure the hardship provisions were sympathetic and supportive to the community.
The council has set aside $1.951 million in support for the community and businesses in the wake of the pandemic.
Cr Herbert said there were still some businesses that were doing OK despite the pandemic but the council had offered the rates deferral for those experiencing genuine hardship.
"If businesses or homeowners are struggling, this is the perfect mechanism to apply for," he said.
He said the council would not be charging interest or late payment fees for those who had been granted a deferral.
Cr Herbert said there was a whole range of things being offered to businesses, and while their accountant may be the first point of call, the council was also helping some businesses navigate the support packages.
"People have got to be supported the best way we can," he said.
"If businesses are a bit lost at sea at what to apply for, call the council."
Cr Herbert said the council had made sure it passed on the savings from its FOGO bin program to ratepayers, effectively curbing the proposed rate rise to 1.2 per cent.
He said there was an expectation the council still delivered services to the community and it needed to make sure it could fund that.
Chief executive officer Peter Schneider was asked at the last council meeting about why the council was advertising deferral rather than waiving of rates.
"Whilst the council has the capacity to waive rates under the Local Government Act, I'm not aware that it has ever done so and does not promote this as an option as it's not one that is readily employed on the basis that the taxation debt accrued should from an equity basis be paid now or in the future by the property owner," he said.
"Council works through hardship arrangements with individuals to see that the taxation owed is paid within their capacity or put as a debt against any future sale of the property.
"This is a standard revenue practice across the state.
"Council has the ability to charge penalty interest but in most instances where a deferral arrangement is in place this aspect of the legislation is waived."
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