TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — First responders across the state of Florida could get a bonus thanks to the latest federal stimulus plan passed by Congress earlier this month.
During a news conference in Tallahassee on Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he's asking the Florida Legislature to approve a $208 million plan that would allow all sworn law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians in the Sunshine State to receive a one-time $1,000 bonus.
"The pandemic put an awful lot of strain on our first responders," DeSantis said. "We believe that we should recognize their sacrifice over the last year."
The governor added his goal is to get those payments out as quickly as possible.
WATCH NEWS CONFERENCE:
That spending strategy is just one part of the many recommendations DeSantis outlined on Tuesday for how Florida should spend the anticipated $9 billion to $10 billion in federal stimulus funding that it's set to receive over the remainder of the year.
All told, DeSantis presented roughly $4 billion in recommended stimulus spending, which he's asking the Florida Legislature to approve.
The governor said Florida is due to receive "comparatively less money" than other states because its unemployment rate, which is currently 4.8%, is lower than other parts of the country.
"A lot of those states that have much higher unemployment are getting much, much, billions and billions of dollars more," DeSantis said.
The governor said he's sending a letter to Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson, recommending some of the following:
- $73 million to modernize Florida’s CONNECT unemployment portal
- $56 million to support the operation of Florida's Reemployment Assistance Program
- $72 million for the creation of a comprehensive behavioral health system
- $260 million in relief for Florida’s seaports
- $50 million for Visit Florida to boost tourism
- $50 million to address transportation infrastructure projects
- $41 million to recruit to new service members to the Florida National Guard and improve armories
The governor said the exact timeline for when the federal stimulus money will be sent to Florida is still being determined.
"It's not likely all gonna be dispersed within the next four or five weeks. It's probably gonna be half, and then half at the discretion of the secretary over the remaining balance of the year," DeSantis said. "We're getting the short end of the stick, make no mistake about it. But we'll make the best of what we have."