DIFFERENCES in hardship assistance between local government areas reflect a hit to retail, hospitality and accommodation while agriculture is weathering the pandemic, councils say.
Warrnambool City has seen 207 rate deferrals since the pandemic hit while Moyne Shire has approved 18 deferrals and Corangamite Shire so far has approved two.
The councils point out the numbers are low overall with 17,256 rate-able properties in Warrnambool, 12,294 in Moyne and 9648 in Corangamite.
In Warrnambool 109 rate deferrals are from businesses, compared with six in Moyne.
Warrnambool City growth director Andrew Paton said it showed differences in the south-west economy with some of the retailers given a deferral as part of a consortium.
"We have shopping precincts that have a consortium of owners that have made applications on behalf of all tenants," Mr Paton said.
He said the council had not received any new requests for financial hardship in the past six weeks.
"Perhaps that is a sign that the federal and state government's stimulus initiatives are working in part to date," Mr Paton said.
He said health and social services were the biggest employers in Warrnambool, followed by retail.
"I think the strength of Warrnambool's economy continues to be its diversity," Mr Paton said.
"Many of those businesses and residents who have applied are working in sectors adversely impacted such as the tourism sector."
Mr Paton said the council had "ring fenced" half of the $450,000 allocated in the 2020-21 budget for community support until January next year to reassess and respond to needs "based on the economic situation of local businesses".
Warrnambool mayor Tony Herbert said the economic drivers in the city were different compared to the shires.
"It is a significantly urban workforce," Cr Herbert said. "And although many sectors are surviving and some are doing really well, some as far as accommodation, hospitality and retail, are struggling.
"The agricultural industry is one of the great shining lights of the pandemic."
Moyne Shire corporate and community services director Kevin Leddin said in speaking with neighbouring councils and services such as Wannon Water hardship applications were "relatively low".
"Our actual rate receipts are higher than this time last year," Mr Leddin said.
Moyne mayor Daniel Meade said the shire was "fortunate" agriculture was the biggest industry, but pointed out there was still uncertainty for all sectors.
"Farmers haven't been greatly affected but there is going to be a stage when it's potentially going to hit," Cr Meade said.
"There are pockets of niche businesses that rely on agri-tourism that will be affected at the moment, like artisan food trails. Fortunately the majority of agriculture is faring OK.
"We have said since the beginning if any ratepayer is facing difficulty they are welcome to get in touch and discuss their options."
Moyne and Corangamite shires have also frozen rates in their 2020-21 budgets.
Corangamite offered a deferral on overdue rates from 2019-20 until July 31 and council corporate and community services director David Rae said more deferrals could come later in the year.
"The new rate notices will be issued toward the end of August and September and at that time we might see more inquiries in terms of deferred options," he said.
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