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DeSantis Wants To Use Portion Of COVID Relief Money For First Responders

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During a Capitol press conference Tuesday, DeSantis rattled off a laundry list of spending priorities totaling about $4.1 billion of the federal stimulus money.

In addition to a one-time $1,000 bonus for first responders, the governor's wish list includes $72 million for behavioral health services.

Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to use Florida’s share of the federal coronavirus relief bill to fund bonus checks for tens of thousands of first responders.

Firefighters, police officers and other emergency personnel would each get $1,000 bonuses under the governor's plan to spend about $10 billion in federal relief money.

Another $72 million would go to behavioral health services championed by first lady Casey DeSantis.

During a Capitol press conference Tuesday, DeSantis rattled off a laundry list of spending priorities totaling about $4.1 billion, a big slice of the roughly $10 billion Florida is expected to get from the stimulus package President Joe Biden signed last week.

DeSantis made the recommendations in a letter to the Legislature.

The governor's plan allocates $208 million for the one-time payments to first responders.

“We know that the pandemic put an awful lot of strain on our first responders, EMTs, sworn law enforcement, firefighters, so we believe that we should recognize their sacrifice over the last year,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis also targeted the creation of a “comprehensive behavioral health management system” to streamline access to services across multiple areas of care.

“One of the tragic effects of the pandemic is the toll on mental health, social isolation, stress and economic instability have exasperated the need for services,” DeSantis said.

The governor also wants to use some of that money on the state's struggling seaports, infrastructure, efforts to fight rising sea levels and fix a troubled unemployment system. Money also would go toward issues such as boosting tourism marketing efforts and bringing in recruits to the Florida National Guard.

Information from News Service of Florida was used in this report.