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Florida first responders humbled by bonus from stimulus money

Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 4:49 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Governor Ron DeSantis wants to spend just less than half the roughly $10 billion Florida is getting from the Federal Government in stimulus money during the coming budget year and the plan is getting rave reviews from state lawmakers.

The Governor is asking lawmakers to spend $4.1 billion in coming federal money.

On top of the list, $1,000 bonuses for the state’s first responders.

Florida’s firefighters are surprised, and grateful.

“I’d be remiss if I did not recognize the other front line workers that are out there that are deserving of being recognized,” said Bernie Bernoska, President of the Professional Firefighters of Florida.

A billion to fight climate change makes up the biggest chunk of the federal windfall.

Related story: Bill banning transgender athletes from women’s sports in Florida clears first hurdle

The money is on top of the Governor’s proposal to spend another billion on climate over the next four years.

“I think that will make a huge impact when you are talking about building infrastructure,” said DeSantis.

Even Florida’s top Democrat is calling it a good, but overdue idea.

“If we don’t spend the money now creating programs, creating ways to protect our state, its going to be a $75 billion hit in the future,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried.

In reality, the state doesn’t know how much cash it’s getting or what strings will be attached.

Senate Appropriations chair Kelli Stargel told us the Governor and Senate are on the same page.

What the state can’t do is spend one time money on expenses that come every year.

Some of the cash will likely strengthen the state’s already hefty reserves.

“I would hope we hold some of it in reserve. I think it would be pretty challenging actually, and impractical to spend $10 billion in one year anyhow,” said Stargel.

The Governor also wants to use the Federal cash to pay for the $73 million rebuild of the state’s failed unemployment system. but none of the one time money can be used to increase future benefits.

The Governor’s plan also sets aside $250 million to help Florida ports prepare for when cruise ships begin sailing again, as well as money to beef up the state’s national guard equipment.

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