City Council approves $16.54 million for 72 businesses, nonprofits

The Jacksonville Icemen, First Coast YMCA and others are receiving help.

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The Jacksonville City Council approved spending $16.54 million to help 72 nonprofit and for-profit businesses suffering revenue losses because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Council voted unanimously June 23 to approve Ordinance 2020-0328 as an emergency. It allocates the aid from a $20 million pool set aside from $159 million the city received from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. 

The list of organizations receiving money include churches, nonprofit social services, media organizations, gyms and arts groups.

The bill shows the city received aid requests totaling $18,592,153. 

The three largest awards, proposed by Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration, were $4.21 million for the Jacksonville Zoo; $2.18 million for First Coast YMCA; and $1.07 million for the Jacksonville Icemen professional hockey team.

Other organizations receiving money include the Jacksonville Symphony, $347,400; Clara White Mission, $597,261; Jacksonville University; 585,065; and the Cummer Museum $117,000.

Council members Terrance Freeman, Ju’Coby Pittman and Reggie Gaffney abstained from the vote because of their affiliation with organizations benefiting from the aid.

Freeman is employed by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida; Pittman is president and CEO of Clara White Mission; and Gaffney is director of Community Rehabilitation Center Inc. 

City CFO Patrick “Joey” Greive told Council Finance Committee members June 16 that Curry administration officials received additional aid requests and were working on a second round of grants to allocate from the program’s remaining $3.5 million.

Curry’s Chief of Staff Jordan Elsbury said in May that city officials considered each applicant’s money requested, how the organization impacts local employment and the number of people reached by its services.

“In their proposals you can see employees being retained, revenues that were lost as it relates to regulation by the city or the state of Florida,” Elsbury said. “That’s kind of the big piece we’re focused on is, your employee count. Are you able to keep people employed? How is your loss of revenue tied to the regulation out of the city or the state?”

At the time of the interview, Elsbury was Curry’s director of intergovernmental affairs. 

The request letters received by the city show a range of revenue losses.

For example, Icemen President Bob Ohrablo expected a loss in ticket revenue of $490,000 to $610,000 as of May 1 after having to cancel seven home games because of the pandemic. 

The ECHL hockey team had to refund $246,241 in season ticket sales, $153,599 in sponsorships and projected a $187,728 loss in merchandise sales.