TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Speaking during a news conference Tuesday afternoon in Florida's Capitol, Governor DeSantis marked one year since the state went on lock-down due to the coronavirus, recognizing Florida's first responders and expressing disappointment in Florida's federal allotment.
"We don't know exactly how much [federal] money we're going to get," DeSantis said. "We estimate it will be between $9 and $10 billion."
DeSantis announced a $1,000 payment to first responders for their service over the past year of the pandemic, a $208.4 million total allotment. Payments would be issued sometime during the current fiscal year.
"This kind of stimulus, this kind of a pat on the back, I know it’s $1,000 and that might not mean a lot to some people but to a police officer, it’s a complete show of respect and we are very appreciative," said Danny Alvarez with the Tampa Police Benevolent Association.
DeSantis made several spending recommendations, totaling $4.1 billion, including the following:
- $72 million for comprehensive behavioral health system
- $73.2 million to modernize Florida’s unemployment portal CONNECT
- $50 million for Visit Florida to boost tourism.
- $1 billion for the governor’s infrastructure support program to fight climate change
- $260 million in relief for Florida’s seaports
- $15 million for the prevention, treatment and cure of Alzheimer's
He also said he wants another $1 billion to create Florida’s Emergency Management Response fund, saying it would allow the state to avoid drawing from general revenue to aid after natural disasters. FEMA dollars says the Governor would then replenish the fund.
"There are a lot of rules and restrictions and we're going to wait for the guidance before we find out how to spend the money," said DeSantis.
DeSantis said Florida is in a strong position due to the decision made over the past year but said: "we're getting the short end of the stick."
The Governor’s budget officials say some of these allotments are being recommended for the current fiscal year, like the first responder bonuses. Others will be set for the coming fiscal year starting July 1, 2021.
State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando) said using federal coronavirus relief money to fix Florida’s unemployment system is a critical expense to prioritize.
"It’s been a nightmare. We are still dealing with unemployment issues a year later focused on technical problems with the CONNECT system," said Eskamani. "Making sure this never happens again should be a bipartisan commitment by all of us."
It is still unclear exactly how much Florida will receive from the federal relief bill in state aid. Budget officials say it’s based on how many of the nation’s unemployed are in Florida, not the unemployment rate.