October 16, 2020 – The City of Savannah released the following statement after Governor Brian Kemp announced that as much as $1.5 billion in Coronavirus Relief Funds from the CARES Act would be allocated to repay borrowing for the Georgia Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund to prevent increases in state and federal unemployment taxes.
“The City of Savannah was extremely disappointed to learn of the change of plans by Gov. Brian Kemp’s administration with regard to additional disbursement of CARES Act funding to Georgia’s nearly 700 local governments. Savannah had anticipated additional funding of $17 million, a significant portion would have gone toward assistance for local small businesses and individuals who are struggling as a result of COVID-19.
Gov. Kemp announced on Wednesday, Oct. 14, that the State of Georgia would utilize funds originally intended for local governments in order to stabilize the unemployment trust fund, without raising employer contributions. The City recognizes the importance of unemployment insurance, however it should be noted that stabilizing the viability of small businesses reduces unemployment claims.
Mayor Van R. Johnson, II, expressed his discontent when speaking to members of the Savannah media during a Zoom call on Thursday, Oct. 15.
“This is not how we should do business in Georgia,” shared Mayor Johnson. “Gov. Kemp and the State made a unilateral decision without considering the ramifications or having any discussion with local governments. Hundreds of small businesses in Savannah were counting on these funds – I feel so sorry for them, many may not survive.”
Mayor Johnson and the Savannah City Council had publicly committed to providing $1.6 million in round two CARES Act funding to support small businesses. More than 400 businesses requested assistance, seeking nearly $7 million of financial relief.
This assistance was in addition to $2 million for small business assistance and $3.3 million to assist individuals with housing and utility costs that had already been provided during round one funding.
At this point, the City has been informed we will receive no additional federal funding from the State of Georgia to assist our community or relieve stress on the City’s budget.”