‘EVERY BIT HELPS’: Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi will not look a gift-horse in the mouth.
‘EVERY BIT HELPS’: Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi will not look a gift-horse in the mouth.

$2.9M funding to create jobs, says Mayor

A $2.9M state government grant has come at the “perfect time” to bridge the unemployment gap, according to Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi.

The $200M COVID Works for Queensland Program aims to “provide a huge lift for employment opportunities, local economies, and community spirit” as the Australian economy plunges into its first recession in 29 years.

Of that amount, $6.18M will go to local councils, according to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

“The allocation … will see projects delivered that will have long-term economic benefits and increase liveability in these communities,” she said.

“I know Queenslanders are resilient, but our Government also recognises how difficult it has been for the regions with economic hardship and unemployment in the wake of this pandemic.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a $200M COVID Works for Queensland initiative, $6.18M of which will go to local councils. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a $200M COVID Works for Queensland initiative, $6.18M of which will go to local councils. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.

The funding is to be spent on the maintenance, upgrading and construction of infrastructure, which could include everything from bikeways, to parks, to sporting grounds.

Cr Pennisi said the council was grateful to receive a portion of the funding while the draft for the 2020/21 financial year budget was under review.

“It’s going to be a tight budget this year and that’s certainly going to help,” he said.

“The money is directly tied to not just short term employment, but long term employment, too.

“It’s very exciting.”

The mayor’s response is in sharp contrast to that of his northern counterpart, Toowoomba Regional Council Mayor Paul Antonio, who claimed the amount did not equate to the needs of the community.

Cr Pennisi, however, said he’ll take what he can get.

“If it had been $5M then happy days, but it’s not, so let’s just be thankful for what we did get,” he said.

“We will be very strategic with that money.”

Councillors are expected to discuss where to best spend the additional funds during meetings next week, but the mayor says it’s unlikely additional capital works projects will be added to the drafted budget.

If additional capital works are not added to the list, it is likely the funding will be used to supplement the drafted projects, allowing budget funds to be reallocated elsewhere.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to add anymore because the $45M we’ve allocated in the draft budget is already a really big number for this council,” he said.

“But it’s a work in progress, and we’re looking for feedback from the community.”