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Jacksonville mayor signs ordinance to help small businesses, says beaches will remain closed

Ordinance 2020-0201 passed Monday and creates what the city calls the "COVID-19 Small Business Relief & Employee Retention Grant Program."

Mayor Lenny Curry and emergency management team leaders provided a brief update regarding the city's response to COVID-19 Tuesday.

Curry continued to emphasize the importance of washing hands, maintaining a social distance of 6-feet and wearing facemasks while in public.

"We fully expect the number of cases to increase," said Curry. "No time for us to rest and think we're out of this. In order to keep the numbers low we have to practice social distancing."

He said he was shocked to see how many people were brazenly going against the 6-foot distance order during a recent trip to the grocery store, and that it takes all of us to help flatten the curve.

Curry also spoke about the violent and tragic situation on the Northside Monday where a 5-year-old child died after being caught in the crossfire of a dispute.

The mayor says that there is no excuse for this kind of violence during a time such as this and promised that more information would be released by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office later in the afternoon.

During a question-and-answer portion of the news conference, Curry was asked about the push to reopen the beaches for exercise purposes only.

"Every day I assess, we assess, the orders we put in place and ask if this is still relevant. ... we evaluate this every day," said Curry. "I don't foresee beaches reopening this week." 

He cited the lack of available policing resources available that would be needed to control people not staying 6-feet apart on the beach and the high likelihood of crowding given Jacksonville's large population.

"It's an unnecessary risk," he said. "We cannot necessarily have people wall-to-wall spreading this virus."  

The mayor said that the fight against this virus includes everyone, including our children. He plans to host a weekly zoom conference call with students in the community and also invite student journalists to ask questions.

When First Coast News asked Curry asked about getting COVID-19 recovery numbers on a local level, Steve Woodard, the Emergency Operations Director responded said they don't yet have that information available. 

As of Monday, small businesses in Jacksonville impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic will now have access to city-funded interest payments and loan principal through a small business relief program through VyStar Credit Union.

Ordinance 2020-0201 creates what the city calls the "COVID-19 Small Business Relief & Employee Retention Grant Program." It was passed unanimously during what has become the normal: a city government meeting on Zoom.

RELATED: 'Open government' moves online amid COVID-19 thanks to push from Jacksonville Ethics Director

In order to qualify for loans, businesses must have been in operation for one year and employ anywhere from two to 100 people. They will also have to provide the most recent one year of business tax returns and one year of personal tax returns.

Small business owners can begin to apply for loans through the city partnership here.

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