Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis announced Monday he is seeking financial restitution from China for the costs incurred by Florida as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter to a Chinese Ambassador to the United States, Patronis warned that his office will identify Chinese owned or controlled businesses that are pending payment from the state and may withhold the payment to offset the incurred costs.
Patronis, a Republican, told former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Newsmax Monday that his office has also discovered several “wholly” owned Chinese companies with unclaimed property in Florida. In total, Florida holds roughly $2 billion worth of unclaimed assets.
“They should own the debt and the problems they have caused to our country, especially the State of Florida,” Patronis said during the interview.
After the interview, Patronis took to Twitter and doubled-down.
China should own the problems they've caused this country and the state of Florida due to their mishandling of #COVID19. Let’s find any unclaimed property of Chinese-owned companies and look at ways to use it to help Florida. pic.twitter.com/OQvYpyDSQ1
— Jimmy Patronis (@JimmyPatronis) May 11, 2020
The letter, sent Monday, adds that Patronis will work alongside Gov. Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody to probe the possibility of filing a civil action in federal court.
Also included were several “factual” grievances suffered by Floridians against the Communist Party of China. The grievances include withholding personal protection equipment, silencing whistleblowers, and denying the virus could be transmitted between humans while failing to contain the outbreak.
“The CPC’s incompetent and fraudulent actions in response to the early outbreak of COVID-19 are a direct and proximate cause to untold human suffering and economic harm to the State of Florida,” Patronis wrote.
The move eclipses Moody’s Monday morning announcement that called on Congress to investigate the Chinese government’s role in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We need answers and we need them soon,” said Moody, a Republican. “Americans are dying and millions are losing their jobs. We demand to know whether China lied to the world as the coronavirus rapidly traveled from Wuhan to our shores — infecting and killing thousands along the way.”
With the letter, Moody joined 17 other state attorneys general, all probing the possibility that China misled the international community about the severity of the disease.