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Beaches, hotels, Airbnb: Jacksonville softens restrictions

More beach time. More hotel occupancy.

Business is about to pick up in Jacksonville, where restrictions on hotels and beaches will be loosened starting next Monday.

Beaches, currently open for seven hours a day, will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. starting May 4.

However, restrictions on activities will continue to apply. Users must be “participating in recreational activities consistent with social distancing guidelines such as walking, biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming, taking care of pets and surfing.”

Sunbathing, boozing and other elements of beach blanket bacchanalia are strictly forbidden.

Meanwhile, Jacksonville and the Beaches are ready to receive travelers.

May 4 also sees the lifting of restrictions on lodging.

Hotels, commercial lodging, and vacation rentals, such as VRBO and Airbnb, can begin taking reservations on that date.

As March ended, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry severely curtailed rentals.

The executive order framed it as a way to stop sick people from spreading COVID-19 from elsewhere.

“Unfortunately, some cities have not been as proactive or as vigilant in enforcing the CDC’s guidance on proper social distancing and nonessential travel as Duval County has. Numerous people have congregated in the state for spring break, cruises and other personal travel. This measure is necessary to protect the residents of our city, and ensure lodging is available for people on the frontline and those who are in need,” Curry said in late March

Room rentals were still permitted to first responders, journalists, National Guard members, and people who can’t return to their homes for travel reasons.

Though it’s uncertain how much tourism will happen in the coming weeks, the move should help to provide some positive revenue to city coffers in May.

Reporters still wait for hard data on attrition in sales tax and tourism tax both, but the Curry administration has admitted that the city will take a serious hit from slowed activity the last two months.

CFO Joey Greive would not hazard a guess about how far in the hole the city was in sales tax collections, noting that data would not be available until mid-May.

“There are very serious impacts,” Hughes said, with “substantial hits” to bed tax and sales tax guaranteed to impact the current year and budgets to come.

Federal funds will fill some of the hole: Tuesday saw Mayor Curry sign off on a bill dispersing $159 million in federal coronavirus relief funds.

The $159 million spend, facilitated by CARES Act funds, programs $40 million for citizens to help with mortgage and rent payments, with an additional $25 million to be disbursed to displaced workers at the authority of Mayor Lenny Curry.

Money would be distributed via $1,000 debit cards, with 40,000 households targeted in the first wave of direct relief.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at AG@FloridaPolitics.com

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