A task force organized to help Northeast Florida recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is finalizing its recommendations after six months of meetings.
The Northeast Florida Economic Resilience Task Force aims to help local governments and the private sector with recovery.
During Thursday’s meeting, Sean Lahav with the Northeast Florida Regional Council (NEFRC) listed some of the task force’s main takeaways.
“If there’s anything that we learned throughout COVID-19, it’s that equity is a very driving component of the bigger picture,” he said. “We have to ensure that we’re protecting low-income, minority and other disadvantaged groups across our region.”
Equity is one of three areas of focus outlined in a draft of the task force’s final report. The others are infrastructure policies and small business relief. Recommendations range from protecting essential workers to expanding affordable broadband access to making sure that everyone in the region has access to affordable housing.
“The work that has been accomplished on the Northeast Florida Economic Resilience Task Force has laid bare the fact that our region’s playing field is vastly uneven,” said St. Augustine City Commissioner Roxanne Horvath, a member of the task force. “During the pandemic, without access to broadband technology or equipment, many are unable to work or educate from home. Closure of businesses, causing loss of jobs, has forced more people to experience unstable living situations, food insecurity and greater threat of homelessness. We must do better.”
The full report won’t be made publicly available until it’s approved by the NEFRC. The regional council is scheduled to vote on the report on May 6.
“If more public servants, community stakeholders and non-profit providers embraced the tenets of this process, then we just might illuminate a revolution among community stewards and the millions of people their decisions affect,” said task force member Valerie Jenkins, a vice president at Wells Fargo bank.
Once the final report is approved, the Economic Resilience Task Force will transition toward focusing on long-range planning for factors like sea level rise and climate change.