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TRANSPORTATION AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Hurricane Recovery

Governor DeSantis has made hurricane recovery a top priority of his administration. Florida has been hit hard by hurricanes in recent years, most notably Hurricanes Irma and Michael in 2017 and 2018, respectively. While significant progress was made in the past year, many Floridians continue to need assistance with issues such as rebuilding their homes, finding affordable housing and getting their businesses up and running again. Maintaining a strong focus on recovery will require significant efforts across several programs and agencies.

For the two most recent hurricanes to strike Florida - Irma and Michael - the State of Florida is projected to spend over $1.9 billion on hurricane related expenses – $627.8 million for Hurricane Irma, and $1.3 billion so far for Hurricane Michael.

The Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget recommends significant funding be directed towards hurricane recovery efforts through multiple state agencies. Programs that would be implemented with these funds include:

Division of Emergency Management

Open Federally Declared Disasters – Funding to Communities $1.4 billion in federal and state funding is provided so that communities can respond to and recover from major disasters or emergencies as well as mitigate against future disasters or emergencies. Currently, there are a total of 305 hazard mitigation projects and over 9,000 public assistance worksheets open under various disasters, with additional hazard mitigation projects and public assistance worksheets under federal review. Open Federally Declared Disasters – State Operations $195 million in federal and state assistance provides funds to leverage the work associated with the state operations relating to federally declared disasters for the Public Assistance, Hazard Mitigation, and Disaster Activity programs. Hurricane Michael Recovery Grant Program The budget includes $25 million for resources where insufficient federal funds, private funds, or insurance proceeds are available to fund projects designed for the repair, replacement, hardening of affected critical infrastructure, and improve the capacity of emergency services. Additionally, this funding provides for disaster relief costs that are solely the responsibility of the local government, as well as local revenue losses.

Department of Economic Opportunity

Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) The Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget includes $747.4 million for federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds to be directed toward hurricane recovery efforts throughout the state. The budget recommends that any of these funds remaining unspent at the end of the current fiscal year be made available in the coming fiscal year for the same purpose. Revolving Loan Fund Program The budget includes $40 million in funding provided by the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce to assist businesses with economic challenges faced as a result of Hurricane Michael. The Revolving Loan Fund Program can be used to address capital needs and help businesses implement plans for resiliency to protect against future storms.

Fish and Wildlife Commission

Hurricane Irma Marine Debris Removal $4.5 million of budget authority is included for federal grant funding awarded by NOAA. The grant initiatives will provide FWCC with the financial resource to remove trapped debris, displaced and derelict vessel, and other marine debris. Hurricane Irma Marine Fisheries Disaster Recovery $44.4 million of budget authority is included for federal grant funding anticipated to be awarded by NOAA. Funding will provide relief to the fishing community in Florida-details are still being finalized between FWC and NOAA.

Infrastructure and Workforce

Florida has one of the best transportation systems in the country. From top-ranked roads to record setting seaports and airports, this system allows for the timely movement of people and goods from one place to another. Still, as Florida’s population continues to increase, significant investments must be made to handle this growth while relieving traffic congestion and ensure continued efficiency.

The Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget provides $8.8 billion for the State Transportation Work Program. The Work Program is based on a five-year plan for the implementation and completion of transportation infrastructure projects throughout the state. The Fiscal Year 2020-21, Work Program includes: $2.8 billion for highway construction to include 52 new lane miles; $865.7 million in resurfacing to include 2,057 lane miles $119.7 million in seaport infrastructure improvements; $323.9 million for aviation improvements; $436.2 million in scheduled repairs of 57 bridges and replacement of 18 bridges; $686 million investment in rail/transit projects; and $212.9 million for safety initiatives.

Increased Employment through Rapid Development of a Skilled Workforce and Improved Infrastructure for Key Priorities

While Florida has and will continue to experience a high level of job creation and economic development, it is wise to continue investing in infrastructure projects and workforce training initiatives that allow Florida’s economy to diversify and support 21st century businesses and jobs.

The Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget includes $50 million for the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund. The Florida Job Growth Grant Fund provides funding for job training and public infrastructure projects that support growth and employment in Florida. Specifically, the program is designed to support economic diversification, economic recovery, or economic enhancement in targeted industries. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) and Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI), both identify projects, solicit proposals, and make funding recommendations to the Governor who is authorized to approve projects.

Governor DeSantis has announced several initiatives to encourage financial technology (FinTech) companies to start, relocate and expand in Florida. Among these initiatives is a focus on ensuring that FinTech employers have access to a trained and proficient workforce. One of the priorities of the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund now and in the coming fiscal year will be to expedite the review of proposals that provide workforce training programs in the financial services industry, with a focus on FinTech skills training. Proposals from state colleges or state technical centers will focus on how their program will match industry skill set needs with private sector partners that will provide employment opportunities for those who complete the program.

The Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget also includes $250,000 to market and highlight investment possibilities in Florida’s 427 Opportunity Zones, which are designated low income census tracts that investors can put capital to work financing new projects and enterprises in exchange for federal capital gains tax advantages. This funding will be used for a marketing campaign, technical assistance, matchmaking sessions, and other outreach activities.

Maintaining a Foundational Industry

Florida’s prosperity in recent years is due in no small part to the economic activity generated by over 100 million visitors to Florida every year. The Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget recommends $50 million for VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s official tourism marketing corporation, the same amount as in the current fiscal year, as well as an 8-year reauthorization in state law. The organization, along with its partners, facilitates tourism industry participation through various domestic and international marketing opportunities (e.g. domestic and international trade shows and consumer shows and media missions) to top global visitor markets. VISIT FLORIDA also works closely with tour operators, travel agents and event planners as part of its marketing activities.

Ensuring Housing Availability for Working Families

Although Florida’s strong economy continues to outpace the nation with lower unemployment and higher job growth, the fact remains that many Floridians still find it difficult to find homes and apartments that are affordable within their family budgets.

The Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget provides $387 million to fully fund Workforce and Affordable Housing Programs. This amount includes $119.8 million for the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) Program and $267.2 million for the State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP) Program. Both programs are administered by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC), from a portion of the revenues received from documentary stamp taxes on real estate transfers.

The SAIL Program, funded by the State Housing Trust Fund, provides low-interest loans on a competitive basis to developers of affordable rental housing. SAIL funds serve to bridge the gap between development primary financing and the total cost of the development, which allows developers to obtain the full financing needed to construct or rehabilitate affordable multifamily units. The Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget recommendation includes a minimum 20 percent of SAIL housing units developed through this funding be set aside for persons with special needs, developmental disabilities, and the elderly.

The SHIP Program, funded by the Local Government Housing Trust Fund, provides funds to local governments on a population-based formula as an incentive to produce and preserve affordable housing for very low, low, and moderate-income families. SHIP funds are distributed on an entitlement basis to all 67 counties and to 52 Community Development Block Grant entitlement cities in Florida. SHIP funds may be used to fund emergency repairs, new construction, rehabilitation, down payment and closing cost assistance, impact fees, construction and gap financing, mortgage buy-downs, acquisitions of property for affordable housing, matching dollars for federal housing grants and programs, and homeownership counseling.

In addition to these programs, the Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget provides $1 million to Building Homes for Heroes, a nonprofit organization that builds and modifies homes for veterans who were seriously injured while serving in the line of duty. The homes are gifted mortgage free to the veterans and their families.

Ensuring Fair and Free Elections

Although Florida elections are administered at the local level, the state plays an important role in ensuring elections are conducted fairly and accurately and helps to make sure that Florida’s voting and registration systems are safe from cybersecurity threats. With the 2020 elections less than a year away, it is imperative that necessary investments are made to ensure these elections are fair and free.

The Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget recommends $6.6 million for state-level election oversight activities, with a focus on cybersecurity enhancements to Florida’s election system. This amount includes: $1.3 million for ten positions dedicated to cyber security who will provide local Supervisors of Elections with support and recommendations to combat cyber-security threats; A placeholder total of $1 million for the Supervisors of Elections to continue cybersecurity initiatives and improvements to their systems; this amount will be adjusted once the current Joint Election Security Evaluation assessment is completed; $1.4 million for voter registration list maintenance services and voter outreach through the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC); $1.5 million for reimbursements to counties for the cost of special elections, pursuant to Section 100.102, Florida Statutes; $1.3 million for advertising constitutional amendments in each county in the 10th week and in the 6th week preceding the week of the general election; and $100,000 for an Election Activities Small County Grant program, to support election-related actions undertaken in budget constrained communities within Florida’s Rural Areas of Opportunity.

Supporting International and Cultural Engagement

As one of the largest and most diverse states in the country, Florida is an important hub of international activity and cultural vibrancy. Florida is home to multiple international airports and seaports that are key components of our state’s tourism and commerce. With the 17th largest economy in the world, Florida is and will remain a major player on the world stage.

The Bolder, Brighter, Better Future budget recommends $124,000 and one position to re-establish an Office of International Affairs (OIA) in the Department of State. Florida’s Secretary of State will serve as the State Protocol Officer and the State of Florida’s intermediary in diplomatic and cultural exchanges with the international community. The OIA and its resources will support the Secretary of State’s important interactions with our global friends and partners, including our large contingent of Consul Generals.

The budget recommends $300,000 to support the Southeast U.S./Japan Association (SEUS) and the Florida/Korea Economic Cooperation Committee (FLOR/KOR). Both of these groups promote trade and friendship between Florida and the countries they represent and have successfully worked with our state economic development partners. Florida will be hosting the 2021 SEUS conference, and a portion of the recommended funds will be used to help prepare, plan, and host this event.