Hamilton City Council’s neighbourhood visits to process rates rebate applications have been postponed to protect the health and wellbeing of residents.
The Council administers the Government-funded Rates Rebate Scheme on behalf of the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), which provides a rebate of up to $655 for low-income homeowners who meet the criteria.
We are also one of only a few councils in New Zealand to offer additional assistance on top of the nationwide scheme. Residents who are eligible for the DIA rebate and meet additional criteria could receive an extra rebate of up to $564.
Each year, Council hosts a number of sessions around Hamilton, as well as visiting the city’s retirement villages and many homes, to assist with rates rebate applications.
Staff also hold more than 500 appointments at the Council offices to help residents complete their application.
However, this year’s sessions have been pushed back until there is more certainty about Hamilton being at COVID-19 Alert Level 1 or lower when they are held. The number of visitors to the Council offices are also being limited under Alert Level 2.
Council’s Financial Support Services Manager Matthew Bell says the decision to postpone the sessions is to look after vulnerable members of the community.
“A large proportion of rebate applicants are over retirement age, who are at a higher risk if they were to contract COVID-19,” he says.
“We’re disappointed not to be getting out into the community as planned but postponing is the right thing to do at this stage,” says Mr Bell.
In the past, the community visits have been necessary so Council staff can witness signatures on the applications, which is a requirement from the DIA.
In light of COVID-19, the Government recently passed the Rates Rebate Statutory Declaration Amendment Bill, which means that applicants don’t need their signature to be witnessed.
Homeowners who received a rebate in 2019/20 will be sent a hardcopy application by post as soon as the forms are made available by the DIA.
“The DIA has made the application easier by removing the need to witness signatures, and we’ll be doing everything we can as well to make the process as simple as possible,” says Mr Bell.
“If you’ve received a rebate in the past, you don’t need to do anything until your application form arrives. If your rebate isn’t processed before your rates are due to be paid, we’ll make sure that no penalties are applied.”
The dates and locations of the community sessions will be available on the Council’s website when they are confirmed.