Mayor Johnson talks slight COVID-19 uptick, CARES Act funding, city manager candidates

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – It’s been six months since the COVID-19 pandemic hit close to home and Mayor Van Johnson says Savannah businesses are hurting.

The mayor says more than 400 people applied for a second round of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding.

Johnson says coronavirus aid should go into the pockets of small businesses who need it most. He says the first time around that didn’t happen.

“Somehow or another there was some miscommunication,” said Johnson during his weekly press conference. “There was more money given to loan forgiveness than was given to new folks seeking loans and so, therefore, the numbers were skewed.”

This time around the city will only have less than $2 million to divvy up between hundreds of applicants.

“Everybody has needs, but I think the way that we have designated the second round of funding again, ensures the equity piece,” said Johnson.

The mayor says on the bright side, Labor Day weekend sales gave many local businesses a much-needed boost. He says on the downside, not enough people were wearing masks or keeping their distance.

“Our patrols weren’t out past 6 o’clock, that needs to change,” said Johnson, “because I am sitting on River Street, I’m sitting in City Market just sitting and I am seeing people in other circumstances that should have been approached.”

Johnson says he’s in talks with the city manager to extend patrolling hours for employees that enforce the city’s mask mandate.

He announced COVID-19 cases for Savannah are slightly up from the previous week. The mayor says the age group 21-29 remains to have the highest rates in Chatham County.

Johnson suggested residents continue to wear masks and wash their hands.

The mayor also announced the city plans to host three city manager candidates this weekend. On Friday, the candidates will tour the city facilities and meet one-on-one with council members.

Finalist Caluha Barnes is a Georgia native and current city manager in Modesto, California. John Pombier is an attorney and serving as the assistant city manager in Mesa, Arizona. Odie Donald, II, the city manager of South Fulton, Georgia is arguably the most controversial.

Johnson says he was only recently made aware Donald is also in the running for a job in Augusta.

“Council members will have to decide how that weighs in,” said Johnson, “as someone who is a human resources professional, that’s just not cool, not to me.”

Saturday, the candidates will have individual interviews with local groups and organizations, as well as heads of city departments.

Watch the complete briefing in the video below.

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