Mayor Van Johnson announces $11.7M CARES Act funding to help Savannah

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Mayor Van Johnson held his weekly press conference Tuesday morning to discuss the local COVID-19 response and other City news.

Johnson began the press conference providing an update on the coronavirus in Savannah. So far, 81 City employees have tested positive for COVID-19, including 41 police officers and seven firefighters. There are currently 31 City employees, including three cops, recovering.

The Coastal Health District recently added a new feature to its website that shows local case rates, rather than just daily case numbers. The mayor said Chatham County has about 37 cases daily per 100,000 residents.

“I would love nothing more than to stop talking about this virus and for all of these restrictions to be a thing of the past,” Johnson said. “However, COVID-19 is still spreading in our community, and the new data from the health department makes that clearer than ever.”

Johnson announced that the City of Savannah will receive funding as part of the federal CARES Act, totaling roughly $11.7 million. Savannah has already received $2.2 million, and the funding must be spent by Sept. 1.

The mayor said 20% of funding will go to City purposes, and 80% will be used for community purposes.

“We recognize that people have had a really rough time,” Johnson said.

A plan to spend the funding will be discussed and decided on at Thursday’s city council meeting. The plan is broken down, below.

  • $2 million for City reimbursements
  • $300,000 for public safety reimbursements
  • $2 million for small business loans and grants
  • $3.2 million for rent, mortgage, utility assistance
  • $1.3 million for mortgage, utility assistance
  • $2.8 million for homeless shelter services and street outreach

“This is an opportunity where Savannah can help Savannahians,” Johnson said.

Also at the meeting Thursday, city council will decide on the 2020 millage rate. The City can either maintain the current rate or adopt a rollback rate. Adopting the rollback rate will generate about $600,000 less in City property tax revenue.

Johnson said the City has been working to find ways to achieve the rollback rate “without significantly reducing personnel or service.” The City is considering reallocating about $200,000 set aside for legal fees and about $100,000 for city homeless initiatives.

Public feedback on the millage rate is encouraged, Johnson said. There will be two public hearings on Thursday, one at 10 a.m. and one at 2 p.m. Savannahians can also submit feedback by e-mailing clerkofcouncil@savannahga.gov or by calling 912-651-6441.

Johnson said the City is also working on a plan to keep furloughs as a last resort as Savannah struggles financially due to COVID-19.

The mayor said the plan includes a 1-3% reduction in operating costs and freezing 111 open jobs, saving $4.5 million.

Johnson wrapped up his prepared remarks again reminding the public to get out and vote Tuesday and to complete their 2020 Census.

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