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Florida House Passes Statewide Budget With Over $60M in Funding to Combat Coronavirus

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (March 20, 2020) — Marking the conclusion of the 2020 Florida Legislative Session, the Florida House of Representatives on Thursday voted to approve House Bill (HB) 5001, the 2020-21 General Appropriations Act (GAA), and related bills. The $93.2 billion statewide budget includes $4 billion in reserves and more than $60 million for the ongoing coronavirus response.


This historic budget -- created and passed by state lawmakers amid a worldwide health crisis -- positions Florida for a strong recovery from the economic downturn residents are already seeing as a result of coronavirus reactions. The budget and related bills are headed to Governor Ron DeSantis’ desk for signing.


CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE


The fiscal year 2020-21 statewide budget passed Thursday provides back of bill funding for the response to the Coronavirus outbreak. In it, $52.4 million has been set aside to cover expenses for additional epidemiology staff, enhanced surveillance systems, and medical protective equipment -- about $25 million of that from general revenue. It also provides $8.2 million for this and other disease responses to include the purchase of vaccines and early identification functions.


FUNDING FLORIDA SCHOOLS & TEACHER RAISES


The PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee budget totals $17 billion ($13.2 billion General Revenue and $3.7 billion Trust Funds). A $776 million allocation for the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) provides a 3.55% increase in total funds in the FEFP over the current year and an increase of $183.62 (or 2.4%) for total funds per student of $7,839.58.


$500 million will go to a new “Teacher Salary Increase Allocation” in the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) to help school districts recruit and retain quality classroom teachers.

Of the total amount, $400 million will go to increase the minimum base salary of full-time classroom teachers (including certified Pre-K teachers funded in the FEFP) to at least $47,500 -- or the maximum amount achievable within each school district’s portion of the allocation.


The remaining amount of $100 million is for school districts to offer pay raises to full-time classroom teachers and other instructional personnel who did not receive any increase, or who received less than a 2 percent increase, from the $400 million.


STATE EMPLOYEE BENEFITS


Under this approved budget, state employees, correctional officers, child protective investigators and more can expect to see improved pay and benefits. With Thursday’s vote, lawmakers approved $192.7 million in general revenue and $142.5 million in trust funds for total benefit issues and $120.9 million in general revenue and $73 million in trust funds for total salary increases. This means (effective Oct. 1):


  • state employees can expect to see their salary increase by 3%.

  • correctional officers and APD/DCF Institutional Security Specialists can also expect a 3% pay raise in addition to a supplemental increase based on years of service.

  • child protective investigators will see a 10% salary increase to help combat the high turnover rate.

This budget also raises the state’s contribution to the Florida Retirement System and fully funds the 6.5% increase in the employee health insurance premiums for current members of the state group health insurance plans.


ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION


The new budget makes Everglades restoration and protection of the state’s water resources a top priority, funding these efforts at $690 million.


$76.6 million will go to stormwater and wastewater treatment, water supply projects and water quality improvement projects across local communities. $50 million will provide for springs restoration, protection and preservation. Millions of dollars will also be put toward coral reef protection and restoration ($10 million) and red tide research ($6.6 million).


Among other highlights, funds for the following agriculture and natural resources projects are also included:

  • $100 million for the Florida Forever Program – the conservation and recreation lands acquisition program to help conserve Florida’s natural resources.

  • $50 million for beach restoration – provides $9.8 million in new funding for financial assistance to local governments and special taxing authorities for beach and dune restoration, nourishment and inlet management.

  • $13 million for small county wastewater grants – provides funding for grants for the construction of wastewater treatment facilities for disadvantaged small communities in need of adequate sewer facilities.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING


The fiscal year 2020-21 budget does not include the traditional sweeps of housing trust funds. It provides $370 million for affordable housing programs like the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) and State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL). It also provides for additional hurricane recovery efforts by including $20 million for the Hurricane Housing Recovery Program and $10 million for down payment and closing cost assistance in conjunction with the Homebuyer Loan Program.


HURRICANE RESPONSE


As the June start of hurricane season approaches, the newly approved budget provides $1.7 billion for ongoing storm response. Included is:


  • $1.6 billion ($225.2 million in state matching funds) for Federally Declared Disasters Grants to repair damage and protect areas through FEMA. This includes grant funding for Hurricanes Michael, Irma, Hermine, and Matthew.

  • $40 million for the revolving loan program

  • $30 million for hurricane housing initiatives

  • $12.1 million for local community initiatives

A more detailed overview of the Budget Overview & Statewide Issues Conference Report on HB 5001 can be viewed here.

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