He coordinated the system to help distribute money that was part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
In recognition of his leadership when the Jacksonville Bar Association volunteered to administer financial aid appropriated by the city for residents facing eviction or foreclosure, Christian George is the 2021 Jacksonville Daily Record Lawyer of the Year.
The award was presented by Daily Record Editor Karen Brune Mathis at the JBA’s annual Law Day meeting and luncheon at the Omni Jacksonville Hotel on May 5.
Mathis said the Daily Record gave its first Lawyer of the Year award in 1986 to honor Jacksonville lawyers who not only are at the top of their game, but also are providing exemplary and impactful community service.
Recipients also must demonstrate the standards and characteristics of the association’s values, and demonstrate professionalism and integrity.
Jacksonville City Council approved the eviction and foreclosure relief program in December.
The legislation designated $6.8 million for the relief program after the city received $168 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
The JBA board of governors appointed George chair of the committee that coordinated the program.
It worked with association staff and temporary employees who helped people apply and then processed the grant requests.
“The city reached out to find a partner for something that hadn’t been done before. Being a community-focused organization, we volunteered to help. If you’ve got a problem, hopefully lawyers can solve it. We are happy that we could administer it and get millions of dollars into the community,” George said after the program closed in March.
Residential tenants could receive up to $5,000 and businesses up to $10,000 after meeting qualification requirements.
Through the JBA program, applications were approved for about $3.2 million for more than 1,000 residential tenants and $315,000 for 63 commercial tenants who were behind on rent and mortgage payments because of the coronavirus shutdown.
The remainder of the money will be returned to the city to sustain the rent relief program, now being administered by United Way of Northeast Florida.
One business that took advantage of the program was, before the pandemic, one of Downtown’s busiest lunch destinations. The pandemic made it nearly impossible to meet monthly expenses.
Allan DeVault is managing partner of Black Sheep Restaurant Group, owners and operators of Black Sheep in Five Points, Orsay in Avondale and Bellwether at 100 N. Laura St.
He said Bellwether was hit the hardest of the three when so many people who went to their Downtown offices Monday-Friday before COVID-19 were sent home to work remotely, essentially ending the strong midday business at the restaurant.
“We were about to tell our landlord we couldn’t pay the rent. We were grateful to get the help,” DeVault said.
Also at the meeting, JBA President Michelle Bedoya Barnett announced results of the 2021-22 board of governors election.
John Weedon was elected to succeed Fraz Ahmed, who resigned from the board to become the association’s president-elect.
Weedon will join re-elected incumbent board members Brian Coughlin, Christian George, Jamie Karpman, Blane McCarthy and Asghar Syed when the new board and 2021-22 JBA President Michael Fox Orr take office July 1, Barnett said.
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