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Takeaways from Tallahassee — Civic duty

Florida is looking for a few good civics teachers.

Civic duty

A move to reform and improve civics education, signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis last year, took another step forward this week.

The legislation, House Bill 807, required a review of the statewide civics education course standards by Dec. 31, 2020.

To that end, Chancellor Jacob Oliva wrote the state’s 67 school superintendents seeking two “teacher expert” nominees from each district to review the catchy-titled K-12 Civics and Government Next Generation Sunshine State Standards (NGSSS, as the kids say).

Chancellor Jacob Oliva is looking for a few good civics teachers.

Standards are exacting.

Subject matter expertise is a given, but “experience with Exceptional Student Education, English for Speakers of Other Languages and Universal Design for Learning” and “a minimum of three years teaching experience using the Civics and Government NGSSS” which ensures that those crafting the standards of the future have experience with the current ones.

Nominees are sought for Grades K-5 and 6-12, with a hard deadline of April 27.

“Teacher experts selected by the department will represent the many unique and diverse needs of Florida classrooms,” Oliva wrote.

For DeSantis, civics education is a big deal. He’s addressed it on occasion, including earlier this year, saying it was a way to “better challenge our students to think critically and provide them with the knowledge of our nation’s founding principles and institutions.”

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Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, and the staff of Florida Politics.

Coronavirus numbers

Positive cases

— 17,448 FL residents (+7,523 since April 3)

— 520 Non-FL residents (+177 since April 3)

Origin:

— 1,365 Travel related

— 3,783 Contact with a confirmed case

— 994 Both

— 11,306 Under investigation

Hospitalizations:

— 2,496 in FL (+1,162 since April 3)

Deaths

— 419 in FL (+249 since April 3)

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The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Take 5

Coronavirus hospitalizes some 2,400 in Florida — The Florida Department of Health reported that as of 10 a.m. Friday, 2,360 remained hospitalized in Florida after testing positive for COVID-19. The state had more than 17,500 total cases at that point, dating back to the start of the pandemic. A total of 705 new positive tests reached Health officials overnight Thursday, and 19 more people were reported dead at the same time, bringing the state total closer to 400 killed by the disease. On a more optimistic note, Thursday marked the sixth day in a row where there were fewer new cases of COVID-19 than the April 3 high of 1,311 positive tests.

DEO launches new unemployment site — The Department of Economic Opportunity, amid heavy criticism over shortcomings with its primary unemployment benefits portal, unveiled a new mobile-friendly website. DEO Executive Director Ken Lawson has repeatedly apologized for the failure of the existing site to process 20,000 applicants simultaneously. Hundreds of thousands of Floridians tried unsuccessfully to access benefits through the original page before rolling out a second site. However, reports persist of users having trouble with both systems, and the new website can only help new users.

Ron DeSantis signs ballot initiative restrictions — The Governor signed into law a controversial bill (SB 1794) that raises the threshold for citizen initiatives to trigger a judicial review and prevents petition signatures from rolling over to the next ballot. Critics say that will make the process of putting citizen initiatives on the ballot more costly; Republicans in the Legislature have argued making it difficult to amend the Constitution is the point. The new law means the Florida Supreme Court will likely spend less time reviewing citizen initiatives in early stages that may never make the ballot in the first place.

Federal judge rules all felons vote — U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle made clear a ruling that felons who completed their sentences, regardless of remaining fees and fines, can vote, and that his decision applies to all released felons and not just those involved in an ongoing court battle. It’s the latest defeat in federal court for DeSantis and Republican lawmakers over implementing legislation for a 2018 constitutional amendment. The language passed by the Legislature required former felons to prove they met all financial restitution ordered by the courts before they could register to vote.

VISIT FLORIDA budgeted and reauthorized — Florida’s de facto tourism bureau will continue doing business for another three years. DeSantis signed legislation reauthorizing VISIT FLORIDA through 2023. The move comes at a critical time for Florida’s tourism industry, with restaurants, hotels, and cruise ships hit especially hard by restrictions on movement and commerce amid the COVID-19 global pandemic. The legislation that landed on the Governor’s desk ultimately falls far short of the eight-year assurance for the agency sought by the Senate, but it’s still a win considering House leaders started the year determined to sunset state funding completely.

Ballot blues

DeSantis signed a bill into law this week that makes it harder for citizens to put referendums on the statewide ballot.

The bill (HB5) requires petition gatherers to get signatures from at least 8% of the electorate in all of Florida’s 27 counties, rather than only half, which is what is currently required. It also lessens the time petitions are valid by mandating they only be used for the next general election.

Ron DeSantis signed a bill making it harder for the average Floridian to change the state constitution. Image via AP.

Critics of the bill argued (and continue to argue) the measure is an undemocratic attempt to stifle the will of voters by making it more challenging to place questions on the ballot by signature, rather than legislative action, a tool that has been used frequently in recent years on measures lawmakers have failed to take up.

“Our government is supposed to be ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’ — but in the middle of a public health emergency, our government is now making it harder for ‘the people’ to have their voices heard,” wrote the group Common Cause in a statement.

The group had sent a letter to DeSantis, urging him to veto the measure. Critics argue the new change, which will take effect Jan. 5, will allow only wealthy individuals to navigate the petition process as it hinders fundraising ability and makes the process generally more expensive.

“Voters shouldn’t have to pay $6.5 million to $8 million to hire professional signature gatherers to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot. But this new law makes it even harder and more expensive for Florida’s citizens to amend our Florida constitution.,” the group wrote.

Bill Day’s latest

Project: VITAL

Social distancing takes a mental toll, especially on seniors.

To combat the effects of isolation, DeSantis and Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom have rolled out a new initiative to get ALF and nursing home residents some new tech so they can connect with their families and friends safely.

Project: VITAL — or Virtual Inclusive Technology for All — will see the Department of Elder Affairs partner up with the Alzheimer’s Association and other industry leaders to distribute tablets at those facilities.

Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom wants to use tech to keep seniors in touch with family, friends.

“In order to protect our Florida residents, especially our elders, from the dangers of COVID-19, we have enacted social distancing measures to keep people safe,” DeSantis said.

“Project: VITAL utilizes methods of personalized communication tools such as video call connections, online support tools, and customized applications to allow residents to continue connecting with their loved ones during these tough times though various virtual platforms.”

The distribution is made possible through federal coronavirus relief funding. During the initial pilot phase, project leaders will work with 150 care communities and supply two tablets per community along with virtual training on how to use the equipment, platform, and applications as well as proper sanitization of each tablet from resident to resident.

“Through Project: VITAL, the Department has collaborated with our state’s health care community to enact the best practices for support, care, education, and awareness to all those who are suffering the effects of social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Prudom said.

“We’re hoping the use of these customized tablets will facilitate critical connections with families during these challenging times and hope the project is effective with making positive family connections that we can use for sustainable models in the future.”

Claims rush

CFO Jimmy Patronis said the state’s unclaimed property website received more than $38 million in claims last month — the second-highest total in its 59-year history.

More than $8 million of that total has already been paid out to small businesses across the state. Nine months into the 2019-20 fiscal year, which started July 1, the Division of Unclaimed Property has recovered and returned $262.1 million.

Jimmy Patronis says that the state’s unclaimed property program has received almost $40 million in claims last month. 

“With more than $8.1 million being disbursed to small businesses, today’s news is great for those businesses who are struggling to make ends meet during these challenging times,” Patronis said.

“I am especially proud of the Division of Unclaimed Property for not only having the second-highest month in returns, but they did all of this while telecommuting and or transitioning to telecommute. As we continue to endure the economic impacts of COVID-19, I will do everything I can to financially help Floridians get through these tough times.”

Unclaimed property is a financial asset that is unknown, lost or has been left inactive, unclaimed or abandoned by its owner. The most common types of unclaimed property are dormant bank accounts, unclaimed insurance proceeds, stocks, dividends, uncashed checks, deposits, credit balances, and refunds.

Both businesses and individuals can search the online unclaimed property database, FLTreasureHunt.gov, to see if there’s a cache of cash they’ve forgotten.

An estimated one in five Floridians has unclaimed assets in the database. Claims require some proof, but it doesn’t cost anything to apply or collect.

Farm-to-table

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has launched a new platform that will help farmers get their harvest into food banks and onto store shelves statewide.

The new Florida Farm to You commodities list connects potential buyers with farmers and producers of Florida-grown commodities, including produce, seafood, poultry and more.

The list’s necessity was emphasized this week by reports of zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes left to rot in Florida fields as farmers struggle to find buyers.

Nikki Fried has a new platform to help Florida farmers connect with buyers.

With restaurants and foodservice businesses shuttered to slow the spread of coronavirus, withering on the vine has become increasingly common.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried says the Florida Farm to You list can reverse the trend.

“We have worked tirelessly to support Florida’s farmers during COVID-19 by connecting them with buyers and consumers, and our Florida Farm To You commodities list is the latest way we’re doing so,” Fried said.

“There’s no silver bullet to solving the decreased demand from foodservice businesses, but by connecting our agricultural producers with willing takers, we can help move Florida-grown products from fields to consumers.”

Farms can get their products listed on the site with an email to FLFarmToYou@FDACS.gov. Listed products can be perused by buyers of all types, who can directly contact producers.

Fried said she has also spoken with large retailers, including about stocking more Florida-grown foods.

She has had some success: Sprouts Farmers Markets has said they would increase efforts to stock more “Fresh From Florida” and Florida-grown products.

Instagram of the Week

Mitigation money

The federal Housing and Urban Development Department approved a $633 million grant for a first-of-its-kind disaster mitigation fund.

The Department of Economic Opportunity will use the funding to launch a new Rebuild Florida program in the coming months. Through the state program, local governments will be able to access resources and bolster resilience for future disasters.

“Under Gov. DeSantis’ leadership, our agency has designed mitigation programs that will increase the resiliency of Florida’s communities,” said DEO Executive Director Lawson. “Through Rebuild Florida’s newly created mitigation programs, municipalities will be better equipped to make their communities stronger and more resilient to future storms.”

Housing and Urban Development Department approved a $633 million grant that DEO head Ken Lawson says will go to a new ‘Rebuild Florida’ program.

Facets of the effort will be phased in over the next few months.

Applications open April 15 for a critical facility hardening program for structures serving an important public safety purpose.

On May 15, communities can start applying for a support program for general mitigation planning.

And starting June 15, applications will be accepted for an infrastructure program to fund large-scale and high impact investments, including upgrades of water, sewer, solid waste, communications, energy, transportation, health and medical public infrastructure projects.

Fee free

Enterprise Florida is cutting out the fees from its Microfinance Guarantee Program.

The loan program aims to get businesses a line of credit to weather the COVID-19 pandemic. EFI’s role is offsetting loan risks by providing loan guarantees to lenders that help out entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Qualifying businesses must be based in Florida, have 25 or fewer employees and have no more than $1.5 million in gross revenues a year for the last two years. There’s some other fine print — pyramid sales, gambling outfits and lenders aren’t eligible.

Enterprise Florida president Jamal Sowell is cutting fees from the Microfinance Guarantee Program.

If all those boxes are checked, EFI guarantees up to 50% on loans of $250,000 or less. Before the fee suspension, businesses had to pay 2% of the guaranteed amount to EFI.

“Gov. DeSantis is focused on helping Florida businesses as they respond to the impacts of COVID-19,” said Jamal Sowell, Florida Secretary of Commerce and president & CEO of EFI. “EFI is committed to assisting businesses across the state as they recover and will support Florida as it recovers from this crisis.”

To get the loan, businesses can contact local lenders and fill out an application. More information on the program is available on EFI’s website.

(Tele) Town Hall

Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Nick DiCeglie hosted a telephone town hall Thursday to allow Pinellas County residents an opportunity to ask questions about COVID-19.

Two physicians, Dr. Jay Epstein, an anesthesiologist and Dr. Julie Shamas, an emergency room physician, were also available to answer questions.

Jeff Brandes and Nick DiCeglie gave some straight talk about COVID-19 at a recent virtual town hall.

Lana from Pinellas Park worried testing availability was keeping data from accurately portraying how badly the virus is affecting Pinellas County. She said her physician told her the office had tests but were unable to administer them because they lacked personal protective equipment (PPE) to do so.

Shamas acknowledged that testing remains a problem, but expressed some optimism.

“It has gotten significantly easier to get a test. Not easy, but easier,” Shamas said.

Testing prioritization, she said, remains in place for those most severely ill, followed by those who have had direct contact with someone who has already tested positive.

BayCare is operating a coronavirus testing site in the Gateway district in mid-Pinellas from 9 a.m. until noon Monday through Friday at 900 Carillon Parkway, suite 106.

BayCare is pre-screening patients for testing through an online portal available here.

Another question dealt with independent contractors who, under Florida’s current unemployment process, are not eligible for benefits.

Brandes said whether that would change remains “an open-ended question.” Independent contractors would still qualify for the $1,200 per person stimulus for all Americans who earn up to $75,000 and the $600 per week unemployment compensation available through the federal relief act.

Both doctors recommended wearing masks when making necessary trips outside of the home.

Epstein noted that masks, which are in short supply, need not be officially approved.

“Use any mask that you might have or might be able to fashion at home,” Epstein said.

In the meantime

Sen. Linda Stewart welcomed DEO’s new unemployment website but said the department still has a long way to go before the issues are indeed solved.

“While this is a much-needed improvement, we must remember that these numbers are still not sufficient to meet the even larger influx of people trying to apply and getting booted from the system. The number of unemployed increases daily, and the DEO must continue to bolster their capabilities,” she said.

Linda Stewart likes the new DEO website but feels it is only a first step.

In the meantime, the Orlando Democrat plans to keep helping her constituents get their applications filed by snail mail, an option recently made available due to the ongoing problems with the CONNECT unemployment website.

Thus far, her office has distributed more than 3,000 unemployment applications in her Orlando-area district. Still, she worries that “it is only a matter of time before that becomes unsustainable unless the DEO continues to improve.”

Stewart and other Democratic lawmakers have been urging the Governor to do more than just increase the system’s capacity, including backdating benefits payments to when applicants lost their jobs. She has also forwarded several constituent questions to DEO director Lawson.

“This has become a very difficult time for all of us, and we hope to be able to provide some assistance and streamline as much as we can. Be safe, wear a mask, and I am hoping in time we will be able to return to some normalcy in our lives,” said Stewart.

More sunshine

Rep. Ben Diamond sent a letter Friday to DeSantis urging him to call a Cabinet meeting to address oversight for state agencies and funds.

Diamond listed a dozen agencies and 30-plus public funds that he thinks the Gov., Attorney General Ashley Moody, Chief Financial Officer Patronis and Agriculture Commissioner Fried should address.

The Cabinet has not met in more than two months.

Ben Diamond is calling for a Florida Cabinet meeting to discuss oversight and transparency for state funds

“As you know, Florida’s Constitution provides for divided executive authority in our state government through our Cabinet system,” Diamond wrote. “Florida’s independently elected Cabinet officers are fiduciaries that oversee the work of a dozen state agencies. The public oversight of these agencies is critical — particularly during an emergency of this magnitude.”

The St. Petersburg Democrat particularly emphasized the oversight needs for the Florida Retirement System, the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, and funds invested for local government entities.

Diamond recognized that DeSantis and Cabinet members “are all working hard as part of the state’s response to this crisis” but said, “there should be public discussion of this response.”

Specifically, Diamond said the four statewide elected leaders should discuss efforts to ensure law enforcement have personal protective equipment; verify that the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs is providing any available assistance to veterans suffering from the virus; ensure that financial and insurance regulators are protecting and assisting Floridians, and consider recommendations from the Division of Bond Finance on how state debt should be managed at this time.

“In short, the work of the Florida Cabinet must continue so these and other important issues can be addressed in a transparent and public manner,” he wrote.

Order’s up

House Majority Leader Dane Eagle will spend much of his Easter Weekend helping to feed Southwest Florida’s most needy.

The Cape Coral Republican, along with members of his Congressional campaign, has secured and delivered 5,000 pounds of produce to the Community Cooperative of Fort Myers.

“Families living paycheck-to-paycheck will be hardest hit by the quarantine, and we need to do our part to ensure they make it through this crisis,” Eagle said. “No family should go without food on their table this weekend. I’m proud of Florida’s generous farmers and the outpouring of support from our community to those in need. Together we will make it through this crisis.”

Dane Eagle will spend Easter weekend helping feed needy citizens.

The donated food will come from some of the region’s most significant agricultural enterprises. U.S. Sugar gave 50 bushels of green beans, while Troyer Brothers Farms provided 4,000 pounds of redskin potatoes.

Leaders for the Community Cooperative stressed their appreciation for the support.

“As a grassroots organization, the Community Cooperative relies on the generosity of our community to provide for those in need during these difficult times,” said Stefanie Edwards, Chief Development & Operating Officer for the Community Cooperative.

‘This ain’t the flu’

Don’t count on luck for coronavirus to miss you. Don’t think COVID-19 is no big deal. Don’t listen to those who say otherwise.

“Folks, this ain’t the flu.”

That’s the message Republican Rep. Randy Fine impresses upon his constituents in Brevard County, which, on a per capita basis, has been relatively spared thus far from the coronavirus pandemic.

Don’t count on that luck lasting, Fine warned.

About coronavirus, Randy Fine does the math, and the numbers don’t look good. 

“This isn’t political and isn’t necessarily what some will want to hear. And it isn’t my opinion. It’s something I’m actually good at — math,” Fine wrote.

His math: in a typical year, 34,000 Americans die of the flu, while most take “zero precautions.” Considering a six-month flu season, that’s about 200 a day.

On Tuesday, just in New York, 779 people died of COVID-19. That’s one city, with lockdown style social distancing, quadrupling the regular national flu death rate. Nationally, 1,800 died Tuesday.

Don’t be fooled that Brevard has had only two deaths so far, Fine cautioned.

“What is so special about Brevard County that we will somehow avoid this fate if we do not take appropriate cautions?” Fine challenged. “These are serious times, and they deserve serious leadership.”

Working overtime

The 2020 Session may be over for Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez. But she’s still been working overtime as the state deals with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Rodriguez — who is competing for the Senate District 39 seat after just one term in the House — is attempting to be a go-to source for information about the state’s response efforts.

Ana Maria Rodriguez is working overtime to help Florida deal with the coronavirus epidemic. Image via the Florida House.

Her email newsletters and social media have provided direct access to public resources. She has co-hosted or participated in multiple food distribution events in South Florida. Last week, Rodriguez hosted a tele-town hall featuring officials from the Department of Economic Opportunity, Farm Share and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran.

Rodriguez currently represents portions of Broward and Miami-Dade counties — the two hardest-hit counties in the state in terms of total confirmed cases.

But with the virus halting most campaign events, her Senate campaign’s field operation has converted its resources to a massive phone-banking operation designed to identify individuals’ needs and get them help whenever possible.

In one case relayed by the campaign, Rodriguez herself facilitated an emergency room visit and proper medical attention for an 88-year old gentleman from Homestead who requested help after being contacted by the phone-banking operation.

Rodriguez has also been all over English and Spanish local radio providing updates and taking questions on the state’s COVID-19 response efforts.

With candidates unable to connect with voters as they might expect, Rodriguez is showing one way to fill that gap: reach out and be a source of information for those in need. It’s unclear how long this will be the new normal, as Florida’s August primaries continue to loom. But Rodriguez is doing her best to ensure she’s up to the task.

Status report

LeadingAge Florida and its member senior living communities have been working to prevent the spread of the coronavirus for more than two months.

Their efforts have been comprehensive: Daily temperature checks of residents and staff, monitoring resident health conditions for the slightest change, restricting visitors, canceling events and activities, and communicating with residents and their families around the clock.

“Some of our members began taking steps in January to prevent the spread of coronavirus,” LeadingAge Florida CEO Steve Bahmer said. “In many cases, our members were temperature-checking residents and staff, and taking numerous other preventive steps, well in advance of any directive to do those things.”

LeadingAge Florida CEO Steve Bahmer says its member communities have been preparing for coronavirus since January.

LeadingAge Florida is the state’s only association that represents the entire continuum of care for older adults, from active seniors too frail nursing home residents.

Outside of health, organization members have been getting creative to keep them engaged during as they practice social distancing — Skype, WhatsApp, Google Duo, and iN2L are among the tools in their kit.

“The health and well-being of our members’ residents and staff have always been, and continues to be their top priority,” Bahmer added before praising staff for their leadership during tough times.

“The incredible work that our members are doing is a testament to the quality of their leadership and the commitment of their truly heroic staff. They are doing everything they can in the context of this pandemic to ensure the physical, mental, and spiritual health of their residents and staff.”

Public works

Florida has a lot of public employees, and they’re not just in the capital city.

A new report from the government watchdog Florida TaxWatch found that a single government entity is the largest employer in the county in 61 of Florida’s 67 counties.

Florida’s Top Public Employers by County report encompasses federal, state, county, and municipal governments. It also found, on average, that four out of the 10 largest employers in any given county are government entities.

The report examines the top-10 largest employers in each county. Out of 670 slots, 280 are filled by public employers; 390 are private businesses.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho leads the state’s third-largest employer.

There are some outliers.

The nadir of public employer dominance is in Osceola County, where they hold just two spots in the Top 10. The apex is, unsurprisingly, in Leon County, where public employers hold eight spots on the list.

A major player in each county is school districts. Statewide, they employ 337,000 full-time workers. Some county school districts are among the largest employers statewide — Miami-Dade schools are the No. 3 employer in the state with nearly 40,000 workers.

County and city level employment numbers are fleshed out by various law enforcement agencies. Health care has a presence, too, while the military holds the crown in Okaloosa and is near the top in Bay and Duval as well.

Other public entities in the Top 10 statewide: USPS at No. 4, Broward County School Board at No. 6, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at No. 7, the U.S. Air Force at No. 8, Miami-Dade County at No. 9 and the Hillsborough County School Board at No. 10.

Novel research

For some, stay-at-home orders and curfews couldn’t come soon enough. For others, government measures to contain the novel coronavirus are a bridge too far.

Now Florida State University and other institutions are teaming up to research how the rapid changes brought about by the pandemic have changed the public’s views on the rule of law.

FSU Associate Professor of Political Science Amanda Driscoll, the project’s co-investigator, said the team would examine the challenge that the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus presents to long-standing norms that support democratic order.

The research proposal began with a hunch that would-be autocrats might use the pandemic as an opportunity to consolidate political power, Driscoll said.

FSU Associate Professor Amanda Driscoll examines the effect stay-at-home orders are having on the democratic order and perceptions on the rule of law. 

“As the days passed, we found more and more examples of elites doing just that, from Netanyahu’s abrupt shuttering of the Israeli parliament, which outraged the opposition, to the Hungarian government’s rapid expansion of executive powers in the name of staving off the crisis,” she said. “The situation is unfolding and changing as every day passes.”

She added, “Although the Israeli opposition was outraged by Netanyahu’s actions, draconian measures by government have not generally inspired public backlash as yet, perhaps because they were framed as actions taken in the interest of public health and not politics. Understanding how the public weighs possible state intrusion against concerns for health and well-being is critical for understanding when the rule of law might thrive, multiply, or wither on the vine.”

The $197,000 National Science Foundation grant was awarded to FSU, West Virginia University and Pennsylvania State University. FSU will receive just under $30,000, and the remainder of the funding will be split between the other two universities.

The funding was awarded in late March through the NSF’s RAPID funding mechanism for proposals that have a severe urgency in terms of availability of data and require quick-response research on natural disasters and unanticipated events.

Learn to lead

The Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce is now accepting applications for its next Leadership Tallahassee class, framing the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity for new leaders to step up.

Leadership Tallahassee is a yearlong program, now searching for the members of its 38th class, that prepares participants for community leadership through leadership service. The Chamber anticipates more applicants than before as the economic effects of the pandemic continue to play out.

“As our community currently faces tall challenges, there is a real demand for fresh ideas and new perspectives,” according to a news release.

The program is designed to encourage Tallahassee area executives and managers to develop a network of fellow leaders and to address critical issues in the capital city.

“Leadership Tallahassee is much more than just a program — it is a system for building lifelong relationships which in turn benefits the greater good of our community.”

Applications, available online, are now due April 20 after the Chamber extended the deadline. All applicants will be notified by June 1.

Over 1,800 graduates have completed the program since it began in 1983.

The Chamber also operates a parallel youth program that will retake applications in December.

Great Give

FSU friends and supporters donated more than $438,000 to benefit students hurt financially by the coronavirus pandemic.

Initially slated for March 24 and March 25, the FSU Foundation shifted this year’s Great Give to a 24-hour fundraiser Tuesday to benefit students after initially postponing the drive because of the pandemic.

“We honestly didn’t know how or when FSU’s Great Give would change after it was postponed, but I like to say our donors did,” said the foundation’s Annual Giving director Sarishni Patel in a statement. “We heard an overwhelming response from our Florida State family asking how they could support our students, so that’s exactly what we did.”

FSU’s Great Give had more than 2,500 donors giving $438,554.11 for student emergency funds.

More than 2,500 donors gave $438,554.11 for emergency funds for students at the university’s Tallahassee and Panama City campuses. Those funds lend a hand toward food insecurity, medical bills, technology and housing assistance, as long as the pandemic affected a student’s ability to pay for those.

While the campaign is over, people may still donate at foundation.fsu.edu/emergency.

“Like a lot of funds, the more we raise, the more students we are able to help,” Patel said. “That’s what makes this year’s FSU’s Great Give so special. We’re able to put these funds into use very quickly and help our students during a very chaotic time.”

Students are eligible for up to $1,000.

University president John Thrasher thanked the FSU community for their resilience during the pandemic in a video kicking off the fundraiser.

“It shows me more than ever that Florida State University is truly a family,” he said. “Families come together when there’s times of greatness and when there’s times of difficulty, and truly, our family is coming together.”

Capitol, err, Corona Directions

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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