Dane Eagle, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) today highlighted strategic investments made in Florida communities and program successes achieved in 2020. These investments and important achievements will aid in Florida’s economic recovery.
“Governor DeSantis has a steadfast commitment to helping communities and small businesses endure the challenges faced in 2020, while also ensuring that the health, safety, and resiliency of Floridians remain a top priority,” said Dane Eagle, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “This year brought many unprecedented challenges to the Department, and I am proud of the hard work and sacrifices my team has made to serve Floridians. In spite of those challenges, DEO continued to make millions of dollars in strategic investments in Florida communities while also advancing important workforce development initiatives. I look forward to our continued successes and progress as we head into 2021.”
Rebuilding After COVID-19
Supporting Small Businesses
- On March 12, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the activation of the Business Damage Assessment survey to assess the impact of COVID-19 on Florida’s local business operations.
- On March 17, Governor DeSantis activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan to provide short-term, interest-free loans to small businesses that experienced economic injury as a result of COVID-19.
- On March 21, Governor DeSantis announced the first two emergency bridge loans to businesses impacted by COVID-19.
- The Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program approved more than $50 million to assist 959 small businesses throughout the state of Florida in their economic recovery efforts. This was the largest Emergency Bridge Loan activation in the history of the program.
- Through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allocated $100 million in Community Development Block Grant – Coronavirus (CDBG-CV)funds for the state of Florida to administer in entitlement and non-entitlement (Small Cities CDBG) communities. The purpose of this program is to help communities fund activities that prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus pandemic. DEO will announce the opening of the application cycles for these funds in early 2021.
- Additionally, DEO received $29 million for the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) and $56 million for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance program (LIHEAP). The CSBG and the LIHEAP programs provides federal funds to designated local governments and non-profit community action agencies to assistant eligible low-income households in attaining self-sufficiency skills and provides energy assistance to eligible individuals.
- In May, DEO announced that Florida was awarded $12 million in federal funding through the Disaster Recovery Dislocated Worker Grant in response to COVID-19. This federal Disaster Recovery Dislocated Worker Grant will provide disaster relief employment in the form of temporary jobs, employment and training services, and supportive services to eligible Floridians.
- In December, Governor DeSantis announced that Florida would receive an additional $28 million in federal funding through the Disaster Recovery Dislocated Worker Grant in response to COVID-19.
Providing Reemployment Assistance
- The CARES Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020, expanded Reemployment Assistance benefits to individuals who lost their jobs due to COVID-19. As of December 21, DEO has paid 2,147,752 claimants more than $19.5 billion ($19,538,238,243). Nearly 4.7 million (4,657,491) unique claims have been processed, representing 99.2% of unique claims submitted.
- In order to provide full transparency to Floridians, DEO designed and implemented the Reemployment Assistance Claims Dashboard. The dashboard tracks the total number of Reemployment Assistance claims that have been submitted, verified, processed and paid.
In 2020, Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, the Department has remained committed to helping promote economic resiliency in Florida communities through strategic investments and quality program delivery. This includes implementing distributing disaster recovery funding and workforce development programs.
Disaster Recovery Efforts – Rebuild Florida
This year, the Department has achieved several milestones, including continued assistance to Florida families impacted by Hurricane Irma, the launch of new Rebuild Florida Mitigation programs aimed at the resiliency of Florida’s communities, and receiving the federal guidance and funding necessary to create and launch disaster recovery programs for Hurricane Michael-impacted communities. For more information about all of the Rebuild Florida programs, visit RebuildFlorida.gov.
- Rebuild Florida Housing Repair and Replacement Program – Homes that are repaired through the Rebuild Florida program are being built to current building code with an additional hurricane resiliency package, including hurricane resilient doors, windows, and garage doors. As of December 22, DEO has received more than 8,300 completed applications, with nearly 4,200 homeowners in the award phase totaling over $174 million for repair activities. More than 1,400 projects are with Rebuild Florida contractors, of which 1,274 are in various stages of construction.
- Rebuild Florida Infrastructure Repair Program – In January, Governor DeSantis announced more than $84 million has been awarded to 21 communities to improve infrastructure in Hurricane Irma-impacted communities. Additionally, in March, DEO announced $100 million of additional funding for local governments in communities impacted by Hurricane Irma. The Department has completed the initial scoring of applications and is currently conducting site visits and risk assessments of potential award recipients.
- Rebuild Florida Workforce Recovery Training Program – In February, Governor DeSantis announced more than $14 million has been awarded to seven organizations through the Rebuild Florida Workforce Recovery Training Program. The program is designed to train Floridians in construction trades necessary to support disaster recovery efforts.
Community Development Block Grant – Mitigation Program
In April, HUD approved the state of Florida’s Action Plan for mitigation activities, and the Department announced the launch of new Rebuild Florida mitigation programs designed to increase the resiliency of Florida communities.
- Rebuild Florida Critical Facility Hardening Program – In April, the Department launched the Rebuild Florida Critical Facility Hardening Program which has $75 million in available funding for units of local government and state agencies to harden critical buildings that serve a public safety purpose for local communities. The Department has completed the initial scoring of applications and is currently conducting site visits and risk assessments of potential award recipients.
- Rebuild Florida General Infrastructure Program – In July, the Department launched the Rebuild Florida Mitigation General Infrastructure Program which provides $475 million in funding designed to fund large scale and high impact local, multijurisdictional, and regional investments. The Department has completed the initial scoring of applications and is currently conducting site visits and risk assessments of potential award recipients.
- Rebuild Florida Voluntary Home Buyout Program – In August, the Department launched the Rebuild Florida Voluntary Home Buyout Program which has $27 million in available funding designed to encourage risk reduction through the purchase of residential property in high flood-risk areas to help reduce the impact of future disasters. The Department is scoring applications and is preparing to conduct site visits and risk assessments of potential award recipients.
- Rebuild Florida General Infrastructure Repair Program – In September, the Department launched the Rebuild Florida General Infrastructure Repair Program which has more than $223 million in available funding designed to fund infrastructure restoration and improvement projects in communities impacted by Hurricane Michael. The Department is scoring applications for the first round of funding and is preparing to conduct site visits and risk assessments of potential award recipients.
- Other Infrastructure activities include funds allocated for the reconstruction of the Calhoun-Liberty Hospital, a designated Critical Access Hospital, which sustained significant damage from Hurricane Michael.
- Additionally, the Department will leverage federal funds to provide local match funding to local communities for the Florida Division of Emergency Management’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to fortify infrastructure projects with resiliency measures.
- Rebuild Florida Workforce Recovery Training Program – In October, the Department launched the Rebuild Florida Workforce Recovery Training Program which has $8 million in available funding designed to provide opportunities for local workforce development boards, educational institutions, and technical centers located in the communities most impacted by Hurricane Michael to train new workers in construction trades. The Department is scoring applications and is preparing to conduct site visits and risk assessments of potential award recipients.
- Rebuild Florida Technical Assistance Grant Program – In October, the Department launched the Rebuild Florida Technical Assistance Grant Program which has $1 million in available funding designed to help Fiscally Constrained Counties impacted by Hurricane Michael access Rebuild Florida’s long-term disaster recovery programs by providing assistance with application development, including project identification, project cost determination, and scope of work preparation.
- Rebuild Florida Hometown Revitalization Program – In November, the Department launched the Rebuild Florida Hometown Revitalization Program which has more than $60 million in available funding designed to support the recovery of economic activity in commercial areas of impacted towns and cities, facilitating the return and recovery of businesses, jobs, and provision of goods and services to the community. The application cycle remains open through February 16, 2021.
- Community Services Block Grant Hurricane Michael Disaster Relief Supplemental Funds – In March, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity announced the state’s application to access $6.4 million through Community Services Block Grant – Disaster Relief Supplemental Funds. In April, the United States Department of Health and Human Services approved the application and community action agencies are administering services in the 12 counties impacted by Hurricane Michael.
- Rebuild Florida Business Loan Fund – In June, DEO announced the availability of an additional $10 million in state and federal funds, in partnership with the United States Economic Development Administration, to help small businesses still recovering from Hurricane Michael to rebuild and expand. Businesses located in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Taylor, Wakulla, and Washington counties are eligible to apply for the funding. This funding is in addition to the $40 million available through the Rebuild Florida Business Loan Fund to assist businesses statewide with economic development and resiliency.
Hurricane Sally Recovery Efforts
- On September 17, DEO activated the Business Damage Assessment Survey in response to Hurricane Sally. The survey gathered information from businesses affected by Hurricane Sally, and DEO shares the results with various local, state, and federal agencies to implement appropriate disaster relief programs.
- On September 23, Governor DeSantis activated the Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan and announced the allocation of $5 million to support businesses that experienced physical damage and economic injury as a result of Hurricane Sally. On October 1, Governor DeSantis announced the first Emergency Bridge Loan for a small business impacted by Hurricane Sally.
- In November, Governor DeSantis announced that Florida was awarded $5 million from U.S. Department of Labor through the Disaster Recovery National Dislocated Worker Grant program in response to Hurricane Sally. The grant will provide disaster relief employment in the form of temporary jobs that support clean-up activities and humanitarian assistance in communities impacted by Hurricane Sally.
- DEO and the Florida Division of Emergency Management organized available resources through the Community Services Block Grant program in partnership with the United States Department of Health and Human Services, to assist residents of Forest Creek Apartments and other families and individuals in Pensacola that were significantly impacted by Hurricane Sally.
Strategic Community Investments
In 2020, DEO has awarded more than $20 million in grants for communities across Florida.
- Infrastructure Improvements – In January, Governor DeSantis announced more than $5.2 million in awards to small and rural Florida communities through the Florida Small Cities Community Development Block Grant – Economic Development category and the Rural Infrastructure Fund.
- Later in January, Governor DeSantis announced more than $5.4 million in awards to improve public infrastructure in 15 rural communities in Northwest Florida that were impacted by Hurricane Michael.
- In February, Governor DeSantis announced nearly $5 million was awarded to the city of Pensacola for infrastructure enhancements to the Pensacola International Airport and $250,000 was awarded to the city of Green Cove Springs for electrical line infrastructure upgrades through the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund.
- In July, Governor DeSantis announced $900,000 in funding for infrastructure projects in two rural Northeast Florida communities through the Rural Infrastructure Fund, administered by DEO, to help build infrastructure improvements that will attract new business and correct sewer system issues caused by the impacts of Hurricane Irma.
- In October, DEO announced the availability of $8.6 million in funding through the Rural Infrastructure Fund. These funds help rural communities facilitate the planning, preparing, and financing of infrastructure projects, which will encourage job creation, capital investment, and the strengthening and diversification of rural economies.
- Community Planning Technical Assistance – In August, Governor DeSantis announced the award of nearly $1 million in Community Planning Technical Assistance grants to 22 Florida communities and four regional planning councils. These grants, administered by DEO, fund innovative planning and development strategies to promote economic diversity while protecting environmentally sensitive areas.
- Additionally, since January, nearly 2,000 instances of community planning technical assistance has been provided to local governments to assist communities with creating their vision and achieving their goals through strong community planning practices.
- Competitive Florida – In August, Governor DeSantis announced $280,000 in Competitive Florida Partnership grant awards to eight rural communities. These awards establish a partnership with DEO and provide funding assistance to small rural areas to begin the strategic economic development planning process.
- Strengthening Military Communities – In October, Governor DeSantis announced that DEO awarded more than $2 million in funding for military-related programs through the Defense Reinvestment Grant Program and the Defense Infrastructure Grant Program. These grants provide funding to defense-dependent communities to support economic diversification efforts and military community relations.
- Supporting Small Businesses – DEO facilitated another notable success this year through the Small Business Loan Program. The Program’s lending amount increased by 97 percent (from more than $18 million to more than $35.6 million) in Fiscal Year 2019-2020 over 2018-2019.
- In August, DEO was awarded more than $1 million in funding from the Department of Defense (DOD), Office of Economic Adjustment, for the creation of the Florida Defense Cybersecurity Training Program. Funding will be used to administer programs and trainings that assist small and medium-sized defense contractors in becoming aware and compliant with the DOD’s Regulations for Cybersecurity, including the DOD’s new Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification standards for cybersecurity.
- In September, DEO hosted the FL Cyber Forum along with partners FloridaMakes, AIF, and WCI, to launch the kick-off event for the Florida Defense Cybersecurity Training Program. The all-virtual conference drew more than 700 participants from the across the state.
- Connecting Rural Communities – The Office of Broadband was established within DEO in July to increase the availability and effectiveness of broadband internet throughout the state, specifically in small and rural communities. DEO is working with public-private partners and municipalities for valuable insight on broadband internet needs across the state, as well as best practices from other states’ broadband offices. The Office of Broadband will utilize Florida Broadband Local Technology Planning Partners across the state to help design state programs and resources for broadband adoption, deployment, expansion, and resiliency.
Enhancing Workforce Development Initiatives
This year, DEO has had a committed focus on enhancing workforce development initiatives throughout the state.
- In February, Governor Ron DeSantis announced more than $3.6 million through the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund was awarded to the Florida State College at Jacksonville and St. Johns River State College to create the Northeast Florida Fintech Initiative. This Initiative represents a partnership between both colleges, regional schools, nonprofits, and numerous financial services companies to provide new financial technology, or “FinTech” training and certification opportunities.
- In August, in an effort to help Floridians review and evaluate state economic data in a user-friendly format, DEO launched Florida Insight, a labor market and economic data platform. Florida Insight can assist individuals and businesses with making informed decisions about careers, investments and the economy. Florida Insight provides users an overview of key economic indicators including statistics on current employment, unemployment, wages, and labor force participation. Information can be found on statistical programs, including data visualization tools and the ability to export custom data series on the website.
- In September, Governor DeSantis announced three local workforce development boards were recognized with Veterans’ Performance Incentive Awards for their diligent work providing employment and training opportunities to thousands of veterans throughout Florida.
- In October, Governor and First Lady DeSantis announced the state of Florida was awarded $5 million in funding to create a new pilot program, Support to Communities: Fostering Opioid Recovery through Workforce Development. Addressing the health and economic impacts of widespread substance and opioid misuse, addiction, and overdose, funding will provide wrap-around services including recovery and supportive services, career training, and employment services to participants directly impacted by the opioid epidemic.
- In November, Governor DeSantis highlighted the statewide Paychecks for Patriots Virtual Hiring Fairs for Military Veterans and Families.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity combines the state’s economic, workforce and community development efforts, expediting economic development projects to fuel job creation in competitive communities and promote economic resiliency. For more information, including valuable resources for employers and job seekers, please visit www.FloridaJobs.org.