Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson covered a number of subjects during Monday’s virtual news conference – including the pandemic, a grant award, and some good news on city layoffs.
First up, the numbers on COVID-19 as of Monday morning, according to the Florida Department of Health. There were 7,000 positive cases in Escambia County, just over 6,200 of whom are residents.
“The latest update from the state shows a 10.5 percent positivity test rate for July 25th,” said the mayor. “More importantly, the COVID numbers for hospitalizations are at 237; this is obviously down from the high at the middle of last week of 246.”
Those numbers appear to be fluctuating.
“Hospitalizations of 236 on July 25th, and on July 24th we were at 226,” Robinson said. “We did see a bit of a dip; we’d like to keep it under control. At lease we haven’t seen anything significantly rising since the middle of last week. So, we continue to monitor that and continue to see what’s going on.”
Along with wearing a mask, socially distancing and avoiding crowds, Robinson adds that city employees who feel like they’re sick need to stay home.
“Go get a test; we’ll work with you,” the mayor said. “As supervisors we all learn how to manage, and [with] COVID-19, that means being a little flexible,” Robinson said. “I think we’re finally getting it through to our [sick] employees not to show up for work. That’s the worst thing to do if you end up having COVID. You show up at work, you can get more of your fellow employees sick. And that really could create problems.”
While other governments and private businesses have had to conduct layoffs in the wake of the pandemic, the mayor says that’s not the case at the city of Pensacola.
“The only thing that we’ve had that we’ve dealt with is our temporary services in [Parks and Recreation] and some of the other things that we needed to hire on,” said Robinson. “So, we haven’t let anybody go, but I think there are certainly some temporary stuff that we didn’t hire this year, that’s allowed us to save some things. The good news is a lot of our funding that funds our salaries has been stabilized.”
Meanwhile, the city has applied to Escambia County for a portion of its federal CARES Act funding, which provides economic assistance for American workers and families, small businesses, and preserves jobs for American industries.
“We’re certainly told by the state and the federal government that cities would be included in that,” the mayor said. “We’ve put together a plan of ours and submitted it to the county [which] very much mirrors sort of what the county does, but clearly shows that within the position of the city in making sure that city businesses and city residents have those opportunities for those funds.”
The county received about $54 million from CARES, and Robinson says they’re seeking 18 percent of that -- just over $9.7 million – equivalent to the state-shared sales tax going to the city of Pensacola.
“We’ve kind of made the position that, hey, we understand in the first allotment if the county already has that money allocated and knows what they’re going to do with it, that’s fine," Robinson said. “We’ll wait and get ours in the next funding. There are some other things we’re looking at; some of the challenges in spending it. You’ve got to get it spent by a certain time, and the things you can use it on. But, we do think overall, there are some initiatives that we can work with.”
One of the areas expected to be targeted with CARES money is homelessness.
“And we believe that for the first time we really have the funding opportunity,” the mayor said. “If we can work with the county on that, we think we can make some real inroads that will create some long-term solutions, in addition to some of the short-term solutions we’ve been looking at from a city with no funding.”
Mayor Grover Robinson also announced that the city of Pensacola has been selected to receive a $75,000 grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for the city's Resilient Coastlines Program. The program involves aggressive planning for threats from climate change.