Mayor Curry Announces $20-30 Million COVID-19 Business Relief Legislation

Mar 31, 2020

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced a city partnership with VyStar Credit Union for business financial relief in the City Council’s first virtual meeting Tuesday morning. 

The $20-30 million proposed program would give businesses in the area the chance to receive help from the city in the forms of grants, interest payments and potential principal aid on loans taken out due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s my intention that the city’s portion of this financial assistance will be focused on relief for small businesses, and some elements tied to employee retention,” Curry said. 

If the legislation for the program is approved, Curry said the entire process from getting approved to getting needed resources would take five days. 

Related: Local, State And National Coronavirus Coverage

The City Council will look over the legislation as soon as next week, and Curry said more information about the program will be available in the next few days. 

Overall, Curry said Jacksonville is in strong financial standing right now, but COVID-19 can change its outlook.

“We've got to face the reality of the situation we're in,” Curry said. “That is, people have lost their jobs. More people are going to lose their jobs. People that have poured their lives into creating small businesses, some have seen that that evaporate almost overnight. And so we've got to be optimistic and action-oriented to solve this, but we've also got to be very real with people.”

Enforcing Social Distancing

City Councilwoman LeAnna Cumber said she is still seeing people in Jacksonville not follow social distancing guidelines.

“The other night in Riverfront Park, which is right by Landon [Ave.] in San Marco, was shoulder-to-shoulder with people watching the sunset,” Curry said.

Mayor Curry said if people see large gatherings of people, calling law enforcement is the best option.

“If called, [JSO has] been responding,” Curry said. They broke up some block parties this weekend. So if you see something that looks dangerous, people shoulder-to-shoulder in crowds, at this point it ought to be reported.” 

Instead of calling 911, concerned citizens should call the JSO non-emergency number at (904) 630-0500.

Limited Testing

City Councilman Samuel Newby, who tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago, said he was only able to get tested after going to the doctor’s office five times.

“I didn’t have the normal symptoms,” Newby said. “I just had a stomach virus. So what are we going to do about people that don’t have the normal symptoms?” 

Asked about the limit of 250 tests per day at the Lot J drive-thru site, Curry said there isn’t much the city can do to beef up the amount of testing available.

“I would argue, if you could test everybody, you would, but it’s just not possible,” Curry said. “So right now, based on supply chains and what’s available, we’re testing what we can.”

Curry also brought up the 500 rapid tests going to local hospitals in the city that Governor Ron DeSantis allocated throughout the state.  

When Will This End?

Curry said he’s spoken to hospital leaders in the local community, and that it’s hard to pin down exactly when the pandemic will peak and begin a downward trend in Northeast Florida.

“As this develops, we’re just gonna, we’ll keep the orders in place that will keep people safe and flatten the curve,”  Curry said. “But I would say to people, let’s expect longer rather than shorter, and do the right things so the opposite will happen. We can get back before we expect.”

Sky Lebron can be reached at slebron@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.