Casual employees at local governments across the Great Southern have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with those out of work unable to access the Federal Government’s JobKeeper program. Casual workers at local governments across the country have lost hours because of facility closures in the wake of national social distancing guidelines. In the Shire of Katanning, six casual employees are out of work because of the closures to the town’s public library and recreation centre. As local government employees, they are ineligible for JobKeeper payments. “There’s really been no casual hours available,” Shire of Katanning chief executive Julian Murphy said. “Most of those (casual employees) are younger people still at school, so it’s not a huge impact on family incomes, which is our biggest concern. “We have been able to redeploy some of our staff in those closed facilities into other jobs.” Mr Murphy said the loss of revenue for this quarter would be an estimated $85,000, while the Shire had incurred extra costs such as cleaning and closing parks. An employee with four hours a week at the Shire of Dumbleyung’s library in Kukerin has been asked to take leave. In the Shire of Wagin, one full-time staff member was stood down while the Shire’s pool manager has been placed on leave. Smaller local government areas across the region have avoided staff lay-offs. The Shires of Cranbrook, Gnowangerup and Lake Grace have reported no changes to staff numbers or hours for their workforces, while Shire of Kent chief executive Rick Miller said only “minor changes” had affected casual hours. Councils in some local government areas, such as Cranbrook, have moved their meetings to online video conferencing. Others such as Gnowangerup, Dumbleyung and Kent have moved their ordinary council meetings to larger venues or have implemented other strategies to ensure social distancing guidelines are met. “Some meetings are being conducted via Zoom, but ordinary council meeting are still being held in-person using greater separation,” Dumbleyung chief executive Peter Crispin said. “Every second seat is left vacant and new desks have been brought in to ensure that social distancing is maintaine.” The shires of Woodanilling, Kojonup, and West Arthur were contacted for comment.