No discussion on panhandling ordinance; but talk of paying for vaccines

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – As homelessness grows in Augusta so has the problem of strangers asking for money.

“We’re seeing more and more people coming up, you see them downtown they’re coming up Washington Road and Boy Scott Road other areas I was harassed last week,” said Commissioner Catherine Smith McKnight.   

“I live out in south Augusta. If I get off Gordon Highway, they’re at the corners when you get off the highway, I think it’s something that needs to be expanded,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Bobby Williams.

The ordinance makes it illegal to ask for money from people in their vehicles.

The Public Services Committee was going to discuss expanding the panhandling ordinance to include all the city, but at the request of the Planning Department it was removed from the agenda. 

“We have to have more conversation what that looks like for our city certainly is an issue but as we attempt to solve the issue that we’re doing it right the first time versus having to revisit it the future folk’s lives are at stake,” said Commissioner Jordan Johnson.

Augusta has been put on notice by legal rights groups that it would be unconstitutional to expand the area for the panhandling ordinance.

“In my own opinion I don’t see begging for money as free speech,” said the Mayor Pro-Tem. 

“We have a problem; a lot of people are coming in from Atlanta and other cities to Augusta and we as commissioners need to enforce and get really tough on this panhandling,” said Commissioner McKnight.

But that will be a discussion for another day.

Meanwhile, another committee approved using one million dollars in federal covid money to pay people $100 when they get fully vaccinated.

The goal is to reach 10,000 people by the end of the year. 

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