More than 20 towns across the county, including in the north and mid-Cork regions, are set to benefit from a new initiative aimed at relieving the burden imposed by COVID-19 on local communities and businesses.
Cork County Council's has set aside money from its own coffers to fund its Activating County Towns (Project ACT) initiative, which will see 23 towns benefit from a suite of measures aimed at stimulating local economies impacted by the Coronavirus restrictions.
The initiative will see the formation of 23 dedicated 'Town Teams' comprised of representatives from different sectors, who will draw up town specific plans aimed at supporting and stimulating their local economies.
Under the first phase of the scheme the council has set aside a war chest of €6 million from its own coffers to fund community festivals and events and town enhancement works.
Welcoming the scheme Cork County Mayor, Cllr Ian Doyle, pointed out the council has committed the money at a time when its own income streams, such as pay parking and rates payments, have been "severely impacted."
"The funding will be used to build on the remarkable community resilience that has been sustained since the restrictions were introduced in mid-March," said Cllr Doyle.
In preparation for the phased return to business and community life, the teams have already introduced a raft of measures including creating additional footpath space, changes to traffic flow and outdoors support for businesses requiring socially distancing queueing.
Other elements of the initial phase have included deep cleaning retail and pedestrian areas, de-cluttering and fixing street furniture, replanting flora and fauna and putting additional road/pavement markings in place.
Cllr Doyle said that supports for vulnerable and elderly people will form a key part of the strategy through the authority's Older Persons CARE programme, allowing them to enabling them to return to "full land active daily life."
"Our message to communities across Cork is a simple one. Cork county Council will walk along with you on every step along the road to recovery. Activating our county towns will reward the civic pride that has resulted in stronger communities and an optimism that this strength will see us through this crisis."
Meanwhile, the authority has reaffirmed its commitment to its county-wide investment programme, with Project ACT seeing funding released for a mix of capital investment and business supports. This is bring made available through a combination of loans from the Council of Europe Development Bank and the European Investment Bank.
These include progressing projects worth more than €22 million that have gone to tender since mid-March, measures to support the SME sector facilitating business to re-open or diversify and a targeted domestic tourism campaign for each of the 23 towns.
Cork County Council Chief Executive, Tim Lucey said the measures have been designed to both stimulate the economy during the phased lifting of restrictions and prime it for future growth.
"People across County Cork have shown incredible solidarity in recent weeks. Cork County Council was at the forefront of the Community Call initiative, but we also recognised that the road needed to be prepared for life after COVID-19. There are many challenges that lie ahead, but by taking this action now and investing in our communities and our businesses, we can plan with a degree of confidence," said Mr Lucey.
"From making public spaces suitable for social distancing, to supporting businesses through various initiatives, Cork County Council will do everything it can to support the entire community. This is the first time in the council's history that activity of this scale has been focused directly on towns and their communities. Our staff will work directly with businesses and communities, as we weather this storm. We started this together, and we will finish it together," he concluded.