TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday outlined some of his budget recommendations for the 2021-22 fiscal year and how the state might spend its share of federal stimulus dollars, part of the $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan approved by Congress and signed into law last week by President Joe Biden.
Part of the governor's proposal includes a one-time, $1,000 bonus for first responders.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is expected to provide some $360 billion in direct financial relief for state and local governments, including an estimated $10 billion windfall for Florida, though the exact amount is still not known.
The governor took another opportunity to tout Florida's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which he has characterized as a success, and he repeated his claim that Florida is being penalized by the Democrats’ stimulus package because of low unemployment in the state, compared to those with stricter lockdowns.
"Those lockdowns have not worked. They've done great damage to our country. We can never let this happen again," Gov. DeSantis said. "Florida took a different path. We've had more success as a result, and you see that in the unemployment figures. We're at 4.8%. You have a lot of these lockdown states that are at 8 or 9%."
The governor claimed that the Sunshine State is getting less money because of the successful response to the pandemic and the low jobless rate.
"I don't think that's fair," he added.
DeSantis said that he is going to send a letter to the Florida House Speaker and Florida Senate President outlining his recommendations for how state funds should be used with this most recent stimulus from the federal government. It will only cover about $4.1 billion worth.
The first recommendation he outlined was a one-time, $1,000 bonus for first responders.
"We know that the pandemic put an awful lot of strain on our first responders -- EMTs, sworn law enforcement, firefighters -- so, we believe we should recognize their sacrifice over the last year. I'm proposing a one-time, $1,000 bonus payment to all first responders."
He added that "we want to fund this in this current fiscal year so we can get those payments out as quickly as possible."
That will total about $280.4 million of the budget.
Among Governor DeSantis' other recommendations are:
- $73.2 million to modernize the CONNECT Reemployment Assistance system
- $56.6 million to support the operations of the Reemployment Assistance program to accommodate increased volume and the adjudication of claims
- $72 million for behavioral health management
- $260 million in relief for seaports
- $50 million for a road fund
- $1 billion for the Resilient Florida Grant program
- $50 million for job growth grants
- $42 million for national guard
- $1 billion for new emergency management response fund
- $938 million to restore DOT work program
- $60 million for workforce development programs
- $125 million for employee training
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