Governor DeSantis held three ceremonies in the state of Florida Tuesday, awarding first responders and educators with $1,000 bonuses for their hard work and dedication through the pandemic.
In addition to first responders’ work through the pandemic, DeSantis’ first ceremony was held in Surfside for search-and-rescue task force members who helped in the aftermath of the Champlain Tower collapse. The last two ceremonies were in Jacksonville and Pensacola respectively.
During the ceremony at the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office in Pensacola, DeSantis suggested that educators will receive their COVID bonuses soon. “Those should be arriving this week and into next week,” he said.
In May, DeSantis announced via Twitter that, “Schools in Florida are open, and we are saying thank you to our hard-working teachers in the classroom by giving them $1,000 bonuses and raises.” By July, DeSantis signed the ‘Florida Leads’ budget that included $550 million allocated to teachers in an attempt to raise the minimum teacher salary in Florida to $47,500.
Because the bonuses are funded by federal COVID-19 stimulus money established through the American Rescue Plan, DeSantis has received criticism for his use of the funds. Critics have called the process a political stunt and others assert that the bonuses do not meet the right criteria to be funded by COVID-19 stimulus money.
As reported by The Florida Capital Star in July, the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDOE) Deputy Assistant Secretary, Ian Rosenblum, suggested that the use of funds were not “reasonable or necessary,” as well as insinuating that the allocation of funds are meant to support academic programs rather than teachers.
In response, The Capital Star reported that the spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education (FDOE), Jason Mahon, said, “It is surprising that the U.S. Department of Education would suggest that a $1,000 disaster relief payment is not ‘reasonable or necessary’ given the dedication teachers in Florida have shown to keep schools open, allow in-person learning, and recover lost learning the entire school year.”
In July, Florida House Representative Anna Eskamani (D-FL-47) went to Twitter to respond to another tweet referencing the $3.6 million the state is paying to an independent contractor to disburse the bonus checks. She wrote, “What a joke. It’s all about getting credit, and it’s not even FL money – it’s from the American Rescue Plan!” She later added in a separate tweet, “Governor DeSantis wants his name on these $1,000 bonuses which not only costs extra money but also takes more time.”
In response, Mahon told Fox News, “After discussion with many employers who would be dispersing the program funds, concerns were raised regarding passing funds through local governments due to the potential for delays in payment processing.”
After DeSantis’ announcement about the anticipated arrival of educator bonuses on Tuesday, educators in Pinellas County were the first to receive the $1,000 bonuses on Wednesday.
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Casey Owens is a contributing writer for The Florida Capital Star. Follow him on Twitter at @cowensreports. Email tips to [email protected].