JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tuesday was a first for the Jacksonville City Council as it held its first virtual meeting to discuss the city’s response to the coronavirus outbreak with Mayor Lenny Curry.
Among other things, council members talked about how the city can help small business owners hardest hit by government orders to scale back operations and, in some cases, even shut down.
Officials also heard from Councilman Sam Newby, an at-large council member who was among the first city residents to be diagnosed with COVID-19 since the outbreak began.
Addressing the council, Curry said economic help is on the way, and he laid out a plan for how the city intends to spend millions of dollars intended to keep businesses afloat.
The mayor said he will submit legislation to the council that would involve a partnership with VyStar Credit Union to make $20-30 million available to small businesses. That legislation is expected to be introduced soon.
“To help companies staying busy and retain their employee, we are looking at a $20-$30 million program with a combination of grants, interest payments and potential aid for the principle of the loan," Curry said. "It is my intention that the city portion of this program will be focused on small businesses, with some elements tied to employee retention.”
Councilman Newby, who was present for the meeting, told his fellow council members that he is home and he is fine. But he had questions for the mayor about other patients.
“I didn’t have the known symptoms,” Newby said. “I just had a stomach virus. What are we going to do with people that don’t have the normal symptoms?”
In response, the mayor said the chief issue with testing right now is the supply chain, and it’s not limited to Duval County. He noted that the federal government has imposed criteria on testing, including a daily cap on tests.
“I would say to people, if you have any symptoms, any flu-like symptoms, at this point, just isolated yourself,” the mayor said.
The council is expected to begin meeting in committees next week when members will begin taking up matters such as business loans and other pressing issues.