Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said Tuesday afternoon, the City Council will consider two emergency bills that allow recently retired Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department firefighters and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office police and corrections officers to work during the COVID-19 crisis without it having an impact on their pensions.
“We'll put experienced, knowledged professionals back on the street at a time when our community needs them to respond to this crisis,” Curry said. “I'm thankful for first responders who will answer the call to serve once more.”
JFRD Fire Chief Keith Powers said his department will only take personnel who have been retired for around a year. They will also have to undergo a physical fitness test before being qualified to help.
This comes as 79 JFRD personnel have been forced to self-quarantine because of possible exposure to the coronavirus. Powers said even if they’ve tested negative, they still need to pass a 14-day quarantine period before returning to work.
By next week, Powers said 26 of those officers will be returning.
Duval County may have enough data to determine if the COVID-19 crisis has peaked in the area within the two weeks, according to Curry.
“Here in Duval County, it looks like we may have flattened the curve,” Curry said at this Tuesday virtual news conference. “That will be more clear to us in the next week to week-and-a-half, when the models tell us we will peak.”
With more information, Curry said he and his team will have a better idea of how to reopen businesses in a safe manner.
“We want this economy up and running again,” Curry said. “We want people to get back into routines, earning money, get businesses back on their feet. And that's what we're working towards.”
Curry also said he felt the need to clarify his announcement of extending the emergency declaration until at least May 13. The declaration allows the city to receive state and federal dollars for supplies and overtime costs.
“This action is separate, completely separate from my safer-at-home executive order that closes non-essential businesses,” Curry said. “We are not extending that 30 days, although we're also not in a situation where it's safe to lift those orders.”
Around 100 small businesses have been approved for the city’s Small Business Loan Program in partnership with VyStar Credit Union, with $20 million in loan relief being processed.
Vystar opened a $50 million pot of money for the loans, while the city expected to pay around $20-30 million for its share of the program.
Right now, Curry said the city has not had to tap into its reserves to respond to the crisis, but financial hardships could be on the way.
“We're gonna have to make difficult choices, but we're gonna have to push,” Curry said. “We're gonna have to be really aggressive in a way that is most helpful to individuals and people in this city. And that is making sure we have jobs.”
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