CASH-strapped councils across the New England North West have been given a financial lifeline for community projects and to keep staff on.
Tamworth council, along with Armidale and Gunnedah, is reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic with events cancelled; parks and attractions closed; tourism down; and galleries, town halls and events centres declared no-go zones.
The councils have also suffered big losses at the local airports with the airlines all but pulling out of the cities, offering just a handful of return flights to Sydney each week.
On Sunday, the NSW government tipped almost $400 million into local councils for community infrastructure projects and wage bill relief.
As part of the council stimulus package, the government pledged an additional $250 million in low-cost loans to spur community infrastructure investment and also more than $110 million on a job-retention fund for council workers.
The "Council Job Retention Allowance" of $1500 per fortnight would be paid for up to three months to eligible staff in the NSW local government sector.
Council workers were not granted access to the federal government's JobKeeper program.
"Our state's 128 local councils are a critical part of the NSW economy, especially in many regional and rural towns where they are sometimes the largest employer," NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said.
"This about keeping people in jobs which will allow councils to continue to provide essential services in their communities throughout the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and bounce back faster once we come out the other side."
The peak body for NSW councils, Local Government NSW, welcomed the announcement, saying councils were eager to contribute to the post-coronavirus recovery.
"As the only state government to have provided councils with economic support of this magnitude, the NSW government has ensured our state will lead the economic recovery from COVID-19," president Linda Scott said.
Tamworth council has already signed off on the COVID-19 relief scheme, which is designed to soften the blow of the coronavirus crisis on the city's residents and business.
Under the scheme, motorists will enjoy free parking in the CBD, council will waive various fees and charges to ratepayers, and roll back business regulations for the period of the lockdown.
In Gunnedah, the council unanimously backed a $1.6 million package to support struggling businesses now, and also help in the recovery process once the pandemic disappears.
- with Australian Associated Press