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New Taskforce Aims To Help Northeast Fla. Recover From Economic Impact Of COVID-19

A closed sign hangs in the door as a maintenance worker passes by.
Matt York
Associated Press
A closed sign hangs in the door as a maintenance worker passes by.

The Northeast Florida Regional Council (NEFRC) recently established the Northeast Florida Economic Resilience Taskforce, which aims to help the region recover from the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

The taskforce met for the first time in October and is scheduled to reconvene on Thursday, Nov. 19, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

“The principal objective for members of the Northeast Florida Economic Resilience Taskforce will be to identify public policy solutions that will assist local governments in navigating these difficult and still evolving circumstances,” explained Sean Lahav, Resiliency Coordinator for the NEFRC. “The role of the task force will be to identify solutions specifically related to COVID-19 economic recovery.”

After the region recovers economically, the NEFRC plans to expand the scope of the taskforce to address other hazards that might have an impact on the local economy; including hurricanes, sea level rise, food insecurity and affordable housing.

“The NEFRC looks forward to working closely with members of the taskforce on identifying economic recovery strategies that will assist the region in bouncing forward out of these unprecedented times,” said Beth Payne, CEO of the NEFRC. “Innovative solutions for economic resilience will be of vital importance to local governments in the months and years ahead.”

Members of the Taskforce include:

  • Valerie Jenkins, Wells Fargo
  • Bill Garrison, Jimerson Birr
  • Bob Rhodes, attorney
  • Denise Bevan, city of Palm Coast
  • Jonathan Griffith, city of Palatka
  • Greg Anderson, JAXUSA Partnership
  • Cathy Hagan, the Small Business Development Center at UNF
  • Reuben Franklin, city of St. Augustine
  • Taco Pope, Nassau County
  • Jeff Sheffield, North Florida Transportation Planning Organization (TPO)
  • Dr. Perry Bechtle, Mayo Clinic
  • Darryl Register, Baker County Chamber of Commerce
  • Roxanne Horvath, city of St. Augustine
  • Bill Lazar, St. Johns Housing Partnership
  • Kristopher Smith, Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) Jacksonville
  • Bruce Ferguson and Rebecca Livingston, CareerSource Northeast Florida

During the taskforce’s second meeting Thursday, members will be presented with the recently published Northeast Florida Economic Resilience Taskforce Briefing Guide, which includes data and information detailing pre-pandemic economic conditions and demographics, post-pandemic economic damage conditions as well as economic forecasts.

“The pandemic has had permanent impacts on almost every aspect of society, and in recognizing those impacts, our goal here is to position Northeast Florida as a regional economy to thrive in the face of adversity,” Lahav said.

The taskforce was made possible by a $400,000 2020 CARES Act Supplemental Award from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

The NEFRC is an independent government agency that serves seven counties and 26 municipalities throughout the region.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.

Special Projects Producer Brendan Rivers joined WJCT News in August of 2018 after several years as a reporter and then News Director at Southern Stone Communications, which owns and operates several radio stations in the Daytona Beach area.