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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Mar. 26, 202004:31 PM EST

Mayor plans help for small businesses that could include direct financial payments

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City receives 50 complaints about employers not following work-at-home mandate.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

City officials expect to release an aid package next week that could include direct payments to small Jacksonville businesses struggling from the impact of COVID-19.

Mayor Lenny Curry said March 26 in a virtual news conference that there’s “a very high possibility” the plan will include direct financial assistance. 

Curry did not provide details or the amount of money the city could allocate, but the mayor said he’ll be seeking City Council input and support for the proposal.

Curry acknowledged March 19 that because of lower-than-projected sales and property tax revenue created by the COVID-19 response, priorities in his upcoming 2020-21 fiscal year budget will shift.

Work at home order

The mayor also addressed his March 23 executive order that employers allow their employees to perform their jobs remotely, if possible, as a social distancing technique. The order includes Jacksonville, the Beaches and Baldwin.

The city has received more than 50 complaints as of 3 p.m. March 26 about employers not following the order.

“I want to, again, urge businesses, if your employees can work from home —  if their job duties can be performed from home — let them do it,” Curry said. “There are other (Florida) counties that have gone to shelter in place.

 Curry said a restrictive order could cause some businesses to completely shut down.

 Initial contact with code enforcement will be a work environment assessment Curry said, to determine if employees at the business can work from home. The mayor said penalties for noncompliance could include condemnation and disconnection of water and electricity.

 “Government doesn’t want to come in and tell you how to do it,” Curry said.

The mayor gave a list of local businesses that the city has confirmed are complying with his order. Those include HCI Group Inc.; Freedom Boat Club of Northeast Florida; Florida Blue Inc.; One Call Corp.; and Gunster law firm.

Call to halt evictions

Curry also used the news conference to renew his call for Duval County landlords to halt evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Duval County Clerk of Courts ordered the cancellation of foreclosure sales and eviction orders from March 19 through April 3.

Curry said, with a struggling economy, it could be difficult for landlords to rent those spaces if they carry out evictions now.

“If you’re a landlord, and you can, just give a little bit of space,” Curry said. “It gives those tenants, both commercial and residential, some time to get their legs back under them and start paying again.”

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