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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Mar. 25, 202006:10 PM EST

President Trump declares Florida a major disaster area

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Gov. DeSantis says state response to the coronavirus pandemic is projected to cost more than $208.77 million.  
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

President Donald Trump approved Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s request for a major disaster declaration for the state, freeing federal financial resources as officials respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump issued the declaration March 25 to supplement state, tribal and local government recovery efforts against the coronavirus.

That includes direct federal funding to Florida governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency protective measures against COVID-19.

In a March 22 letter to Trump requesting the federal assistance, DeSantis said state coordination and response to the crisis is projected to cost more than $208.77 million in services, materials and supplies. 

DeSantis added that business revenue and tax receipts are suffering and Florida’s ability to respond and recover from COVID-19 will be severely impacted without federal disaster aid.

More than half of the 6,617 Florida businesses that completed the state’s Business Damage Assessment Survey before March 22 reported employee layoffs because of the impact of COVID-19, according to the governor’s letter. 

DeSantis said those businesses report 40,438 layoffs — 31,246 temporary and 9,192 permanent.  

DeSantis asked the president to include disaster unemployment assistance as part of the declaration. According to the letter, from March 16-19 the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity recorded 130,000 calls regarding reemployment assistance. 

From March 16-20, the department received 5,325 reemployment assistance applications compared to 4,853 the previous week.

The letter referenced the state’s $50 million allocation for the interest-free, small business Emergency Bridge Loan program that DeSantis activated March 16, and the Small Business Administration Declaration March 18 that brought online the Economic Injury Damage Loan Program.

In a news conference after the president’s declaration, DeSantis said the federal reimbursements would help cushion the state’s $91.4 billion budget approved by the state Legislature earlier this month.

DeSantis told reporters his administration will monitor COVID-19’s impact on state tax revenue before determining if changes to the budget are needed. 

He said he would not veto or sign the budget at this time and “let it sit for now.”

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