Savannah mayor says layoffs possible in 2021 without federal aid

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Savannah’s mayor says he’s disappointed that of the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package Congress passed Monday night, local governments were not given a share.

Mayor Van Johnson said during his weekly press conference that while the city council passed the 2021 budget without layoffs or furloughs — it’s not out of the question.

“We might be put into a position where we might have to,” he said. “That all depends on COVID-19, that depends on the amount of support or lack thereof we receive from the federal government.”

Johnson said he and 11 other elected officials from Georgia sent a letter to GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler asking them for help in securing funds local governments are “in desperate need of.”

“We cannot do this on the backs of taxpayers that have already suffered too much. And we need and expect our senators to remember us and fight for us,” Johnson said.

The mayor said this was a challenging budget year, but he’s proud it passed without tax increases of layoffs — something other cities have not been able to do.

In 2021, the city plans to look at the budget monthly and make changes as needed.

Johnson says there have been questions regarding defunding the police, but he notes that he has no such plans.

“I understand, as most of us do, that we need the police,” the mayor said, adding, “I believe the council and I are in full agreement that we support our police department, and more importantly, we support good, effective, community-oriented and community-focused policing.”

During Tuesday’s press conference, Johnson also spoke about COVID-19 vaccinations starting to roll out to select groups in Savannah.

He says the fire department workers were vaccinated this week with some Savannah Police officers expected to receive the vaccine soon.

With COVID-19 cases on the rise, Johnson says deciding whether or not to receive the vaccine when the time comes boils down to one question.

“Everybody knows that I hate shots, but on the other end of it, I took a flu shot because it was necessary to make sure I don’t get sick, ” he said.

“So the question is, with this high-community spread, [do] you want to be vaccinated against it or risk catching it?” he said.

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