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Takeaways from Tallahassee — Quick fixes?

Hurricanes gave some parts of Florida a head start in the housing crisis now felt statewide because of COVID-19.

Quick fixes?

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a cratered economy and an “extremely active” Atlantic hurricane season, many cities and counties nationwide are rushing to remedy long-standing issues regarding affordable housing and housing availability.

Last week, as the federally guaranteed $600 boost to unemployment as well as the federal eviction moratorium dissolved, so did the last leg for many American families.

In North Florida, however, one city may be the exception and can possibly serve as the national model on how to handle housing issues. Particularly in response to emergencies such as COVID-19 and natural disasters.

Unique to much of America, Panama City had no choice but to deal with the housing crisis in 2018. In the wake of Hurricane Michael, one of the strongest hurricanes to impact the state, roughly 5,000 Panama City families were left without homes. Moreover, the Category 5 storm flooded neighborhoods, shuttered business and fractured the city’s infrastructure. In the end, the coastal town experienced what City Manager Mark McQueen described as “massive displacement” that included 14,000 change of addresses and 60,000 FEMA assistance applications.

In response to the housing shortfall, Panama City launched ReHouse Bay, a program designed to empower and connect families and individuals in Bay County with affordable and sustainable housing.

McQueen credits the initiative for the city’s rebound and thinks it could serve other communities well.

Hurricane Michael gave Panama City a two-year head start on housing issues, something Florida is now addressing with COVID-19.

“Every community is unique and that’s what makes America great,” the retired 2-Star Army General said. “But we believe that this could be a model for other communities to use as a basis for how they reach out to meet the needs of their citizens.”

The program is designed to help eligible residents through myriad services. From rental and down payment assistance to rehabilitation, legal assistance and foreclosure prevention.

McQueen explained that the devastation from Hurricane Michael, which particularly impacted the working-class, parallels the current impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In both cases, he believes the initiative has helped residents get back onto their feet.

“This is really focused on our workforce,” he said. “When you start talking about firefighters, nurses, pipe fitters, electricians, plumbers, medical technicians and teachers, these are all essential and key to getting our community back up on its feet and yet they’re challenged with the barrier to gain ownership.”

Preston added that the benefits of the program are amplified by the strength of his residents, an intangible that he has taken to heart.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the citizens of Panama City and Dade County and how they’ve shown their resolve and resiliency,” he added. “Not only coming out of the fourth largest storm to hit the continental United States but now to shoulder this extreme COVID-19.”

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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, Jason Delgado and the staff of Florida Politics.

Take 5

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

Isais passes but active season awaits — Florida endured its first hurricane scare of the year, though Isaias ended up bringing only tropical storm winds when it brushed by Florida’s East Coast. More ominously, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration upgraded its hurricane season outlook in the Atlantic Ocean from “above normal” to “extremely active,” promising more storms will form. The federal agency now predicts between 19 and 25 named storms, including seven to 11 hurricanes and three to six major hurricanes before the season ends on Nov. 30.

Teachers fight school reopening — The Florida Education Association, the state’s top teachers’ union, filed a lawsuit challenging an order by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran for schools to reopen this month. Several school districts like Hillsborough say they plan to begin the year with distance learning despite direction to offer face-to-face instruction at schools five days a week. Broward County received special permission to begin the year with virtual learning. Many other districts like Lee and Palm Beach counties have put off the first day of school to Aug. 31. Meanwhile, Samoset Elementary in Manatee County sent teachers home on their first workday after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

Florida surpasses 500k coronavirus cases — The Florida Department of Health on Wednesday reported more than 500,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19. That dates back to the first known Florida case on March 1. The spread of the virus has rapidly accelerated in that time frame. While it took 114 days to reach 100,000 cases, it took another 44 days to surpass a half million diagnoses. Much of the growth took place in early July when Florida regularly saw another 10,000 cases added in single daily reports. New cases more recently have been on a gradual decline, but deaths have been on the rise.

Nursing homes may get rapid tests, visitors — The federal government said it will send rapid testing kits for coronavirus to some 70% of Florida nursing homes in upcoming weeks, after regulators identified viral hotspots in the state. That happens as Gov. Ron DeSantis raises the possibility of allowing visitation to nursing homes, at least for family members who test positive for COVID antibodies. The Governor said he will put together a task force and direct it to create a road map to allow family to see loved ones inside nursing homes. The move comes after months of DeSantis boasting success in protecting the vulnerable populations inside nursing homes from the coronavirus.

New York quarantine lifted — Gov. DeSantis quietly lifted a quarantine in place for four months on visitors from the New York tri-state area entering the state. Florida in March became the first state to put coronavirus-related travel restrictions on visitors from highly infected parts of the country. New York was the epicenter of U.S. infections at the time. The quarantine also impacted visitors from New York and Connecticut and required travelers to enter a quarantine immediately upon entry into Florida lasting 14 days or the duration of their stay. Now, at least 17 other states have put similar restrictions on Floridians coming to visit.

Coronavirus Numbers

Positive cases:

— 512,421 FL residents (+47,391 since July 31)

— 5,654 Non-FL residents (+298 since July 31)

Origin:

— 3,933 Travel related

— 148,506 Contact with a confirmed case

— 4,000 Both

— 355,982 Under investigation

Hospitalizations:

— 29,730 in FL

Deaths:

— 8,051 in FL

Unemployment numbers

As of Thursday:

Claims submitted: 3,500,131

— Confirmed unique claims: 3,319,533 (+108,601 since July 30)

— Claims processed: 3,247,808 (+108,200 since July 30)

— Claims paid: 1,846,002 (+30,654 since July 30)

Total paid out: $13.14 billion (+$740 million since July 30)

— State money: $2,782,263,080

— Federal money: $10,361,493,460

Community planning grants

DeSantis has awarded nearly $1 million in Community Planning Technical Assistance to several government groups assisting Florida communities.

The $991,000 goes to 22 local governments and four Regional Planning Councils to promote economic diversity and protect environmentally sensitive areas.

“I am pleased to provide Community Planning Technical Assistance grants to help reinforce our community centers and create jobs,” DeSantis said. “The grants will help Florida communities endure the economic impacts of COVID-19.”

Ron DeSantis is awarding nearly $1M in community planning grants. Image via Colin Hackley.

The CPTA grant program, administered by the Department of Economic opportunity, assists counties, municipalities and regions in developing economic development strategies, meeting the requirements of the Community Planning Act, addressing critical local planning issues and promoting innovative planning solutions to challenges identified by local government applicants. The grants are for one fiscal year and are awarded on a cost-reimbursement basis.

The largest of the grants, worth $50,690, goes to Neptune Beach to revise its comprehensive plan to better identify new infrastructure and growth demands. Other projects cover infrastructure master plans, recreation development, disaster planning and more.

East Central Florida Regional Planning Council received funding for two projects, totaling $74,000 for food resiliency.

DeSantis and DEO are handing out the additional $280,000 through the Competitive Florida Partnership grant. Eight communities will receive $35,000 each.

The grant helps communities create a strategic vision for economic development while keeping unique characteristics.

“During this unprecedented time, small and rural communities need opportunities to grow and strengthen their local economies,” DeSantis said. “I am proud that we are able to offer these eight communities the opportunity to create strategic goals for economic growth and diversity, which is needed as our state faces the economic impacts of COVID-19.”

Back the Blue

Attorney General Ashley Moody announced two new recipients this week for the Back the Blue Award from the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office.

The two awarded deputy sheriffs were Sergeant Colby Beck, a first responder injured while stopping an active shooter, and Deputy Reese Dew, who administered first aid to Beck.

Ashley Moody announces two recipients of the Back the Blue Award, both from the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office.

“It is an honor and privilege to recognize the efforts of Calhoun County Sergeant Colby Beck and Deputy Reese Dew,” Moody said. “Sergeant Beck’s heroic response undoubtedly saved many lives through his discipline and courage in the face of an active shooter, sustaining injuries himself to protect others. Deputy Dew’s quick response helped save Beck’s life.”

The officers were presented the award by the first Back the Blue Award winner and Running 4 Heroes Inc. founder, Zechariah Cartledge. At the age of 10, Cartledge decided to run 1 mile in honor of every law enforcement officer and firefighter lost in the line of duty in 2019 while also raising funds for injured first responders.

“It is amazing to me to be able to present this grant to this Sergeant,” Cartledge said. “This is really special to me because this man put his life on the line to keep people safe here in my home state, and I am very honored to present this $7,500 grant to Sgt. Beck.”

School savings

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is reminding Floridians to take advantage of the 2020 Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday over the weekend.

From Aug. 7 to Aug. 9., the sales tax holiday will exempt qualifying items such as schools supply items less than $15 and clothing items such as shoe-wear for less than $60 per item.

Jimmy Patronis is reminding Floridians that it is the start of the back-to-school tax holiday.

“With today’s unique challenges it’s harder than ever being a parent and having to make decisions on how to best educate children while doing it safely,” Patronis said. “Money is tight for families right now throughout the state and this is a great opportunity to save money on the supplies children need to reach their full academic potential this school year.”

Additionally, personal computers and certain computer accessories are also eligible for savings. According to the Florida Department of Revenue, the first $1,000 will be tax-free when purchased for noncommercial use.

“This sales-tax holiday will make those purchases a little easier on families so they can provide their children with the tools needed to learn and succeed,” Patronis added.

The tax holiday does not apply sales made in a theme park, entertainment complex, public lodging establishment or airport.

A more exhaustive list of tax-exempt items can be found online.

Treasure hunt

Patronis announced this week that the Division of Unclaimed Property returned a record $42.9 million in unclaimed property to Floridians in July.

“Since I took office in 2017, our Division of Unclaimed Property has returned more than $1.1 billion back to Floridians and in July, we broke our monthly record and returned more than $42 million,” Patronis said.

“This is another amazing milestone for our Unclaimed Property Team, especially since our staff has been teleworking since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Despite these recent challenges, I’m extremely pleased that the Division persevered and was able to break these records and return a significant amount of money back to the pockets of Floridians.”

Jimmy Patronis and the Division of Unclaimed Property has returned more than $1 billion to Floridians since 2017, with a record-breaking $42 million in July. Image via AP.

Patronis added that the Division has returned more than $151 million since the COVID-19 pandemic began gripping the Sunshine State.

Unclaimed Property is a financial asset that is unknown or lost, or has been left inactive, unclaimed or abandoned by its owner. Some assets might include uncashed checks, stocks and dormant bank accounts.

“As COVID-19 continues to impact our communities, this money can be critical to helping Florida’s economy and especially our small businesses. An estimated one in five Floridians have unclaimed property just waiting to be claimed free-of-charge and I encourage all individuals and business to search now at FLTreasureHunt.gov.”

Instagram of the Week

 

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The Week in Appointments

Florida’s 15th Circuit Court — DeSantis appointed Laura Laurie to the court. Laurie, of Lakeworth, has been an Assistant State Attorney in Palm Beach County since 2007. She is the chief of the traffic homicide and felony trial units. She received her bachelor’s degree from Florida Gulf Coast University and her law degree from Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law. Laurie fills the vacancy created by the elevation of Judge Edward Artau to the 4th District Court of Appeal.

Palm Beach County CourtJohn Parnofiello was appointed to fill the vacancy created by the elevation of Judge Paige Gillman to the 15th Circuit Court. Parnofiello, of Jupiter, previously served as an associate at Rosenthal, Levy, Simon and Ryles. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and his law degree from the UF College of Law.

Click it for the kids

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) is reminding drivers to be particularly mindful of children while traveling on the roads this month.

“While back-to-school routines and travel schedules may look a bit different this year, it is more important than ever to be mindful of our smallest, but most precious cargo — our children,” said FLHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes.

With school returning in some areas of the state, The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles launched a new campaign asking drivers to be extra cautious for children and pets.

“It is critical for adults to always model safe driving behaviors to instill good habits for future drivers and reduce the number of fatalities on our roadways. Whether you are learning and working from home, or making the commute to school and work, attentiveness is critical to prevent tragedies from occurring.

The FLHSMV also encourages drivers to follow the speed limit, watch out for pedestrians and make sure that passengers are wearing their seat belts.

“As the driver, it’s your responsibility to ensure that children in the vehicle are properly restrained in a seat belt or child safety restraint,” said Florida Highway Patrol Colonel Gene S. Spaulding. “FHP encourages you to properly restrain your children in the vehicle every time you travel. It is critically important we ensure the safety of our children as they travel our state’s roadways.”

More than 127,285 minors were involved in a crash in Florida last year resulting in 1,361 serious injuries and 142 fatalities.

AmeriCorps cash

The Corporation for National and Community Service awarded $16.2 million to Florida this week in support of 36 AmeriCorps programs throughout the state.

The funds will be applied from 2020 through 2021 and will service 32 counties and help recruit and manage 1,497 AmeriCorps members.

“For over 25 years, AmeriCorps members have served our communities by protecting our lands, responding to disasters, and serving our students,” said DeSantis. “Today, I am pleased to join Volunteer Florida to announce this record funding that will support Florida’s communities and students.”

AmeriCorps members service the state in a variety of ways, but the bulk of this year’s programs will center on educational support across the state.

Casey DeSantis is touting $16.2 million in AmeriCorps cash to help recruit and train volunteers across the state.

“As a parent, it is comforting to know that there will be support available to our students as they start the school year,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “Thank you, Volunteer Florida for securing this funding that will place more AmeriCorps members in our public schools and after-school programs.”

Several new organizations including Earn to Learn Florida, Girl Scouts of West Central Florida and the School Board of Broward County received AmeriCorps grants this year.

“We are so pleased to be supporting more AmeriCorps members in Florida, where their service will help to create a brighter tomorrow for the communities they serve,” said AmeriCorps Director Chester Spellman.

Beach restoration

Sen. Joe Gruters joined the Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein on Friday to celebrate a $125,000 resiliency grant to improve the management of Sarasota County beaches.

The grant is marked to conduct a comprehensive vulnerability study and resilience plan that will allow federal, state, and local officials to collaboratively and strategically plan for sea-level rise along sandy shorelines of Sarasota County.

Joe Gruters joined the Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein to celebrate a $125K grant for Sarasota County beaches.

“I am pleased to be here today to celebrate this historic step for beach management in Sarasota County and across our state,” Gruters said. “Beaches are economic drivers for the state and are part of our way of life, and recognizing this, we continue to make restoration of our beaches a priority. It is no surprise that this region will be leading the way in addressing the importance of incorporating sea-level rise into our beach management strategy as well as regional approach to this effort.”

Sarasota County is home to nearly 35 miles of sandy shorelines, of which 24.2 miles have been designated as critically eroding. The county does not currently have a resilience plan for coastal management that addresses current conditions, existing management strategies, and projected sea-level rise.

“I am pleased to be here today to celebrate this historic step for beach management in Sarasota “DEP is proud to be able to able to provide grant funding to support this important study,” Valenstein said. “Under the Governor’s leadership, DEP is making it a priority to support our coastal communities in the planning and preparation for the 2 to 3 feet of sea-level rise our state is expected to experience by 2060.”

First bills arrive

The first bills of the 2021 Legislative Session are trickling in.

Among the early arrivals is a measure from Sen. Victor Torres that would send $17.7 million to Christeia Jones, who was hit by a Florida Highway Patrol trooper on I-75 six years ago.

Jones filed a lawsuit in Orange County and the court found trooper Raul Umana was at fault for the crash, which occurred when he attempted to cross a gap in the median onto the southbound lanes of the interstate.

One of the first proposals for the 2021 Legislative Session is a claim bill for Christeia Jones, who was injured when she collided with a Florida Highway Patrol trooper six years ago.

Umana ended up slamming into Jones’ vehicle, which was subsequently hit by a semi-truck before careening off the road and into a tree before catching fire.

Jones was carting her three sons, who ranged in age from 2 to 7 years old. All were injured in the event.

Though the court settlement totaled $18 million, the state can only pay out $285,000 due to sovereign immunity laws. Torres’ bill would send Jones the balance — $17.715 million.

Tax cutting warrior

Rep. Bob Rommel has agreed to serve as the chair of the Taxpayer Protection Caucus on behalf of Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform.

The Taxpayer Protection Caucus was developed by Americans for Tax Reform as a means of holding the line on new taxes in legislatures throughout the country.

Naples Republican Bob Rommel will serve as chair of the Taxpayer Protection Caucus.

“Taxation at every level of government continues to be the single biggest impediment to economic growth,” Rommel said. “Conservatives in the Florida Legislature have already been holding the line on proposed tax increases, but we must remain vigilant. Every year, there is more pressure by third party groups and liberals to raise taxes and increase spending. This caucus will be ready for action and to stop any proposed new taxes.”

Rommel, a Naples Republican, has championed tax cuts, spending reform, regulatory reform, and lawsuit reform since he was elected to represent HD 106 in 2016. Rommel said his efforts stem from a desire to make Florida a world destination for business.

“One of the important aspects of leadership is making sure to build an infrastructure for carrying important policy goals from one generation to the next,” he added.

“Our caucus will be an important part of helping to stop tax increases in Florida well into the future. I am honored that Grover asked me to take this on, and I look forward to working with ATR on an ongoing basis.”

Future of Florida Forum

The Florida Chamber’s 2020 Future of Florida Forum has a timely theme this year: “Relaunch and Reimagine Florida’s Future.”

Though the theme is new, the mission remains the same. The event, set for Oct. 20-22, will focus on how business can help secure Florida’s future.

This year, the Florida Chamber’s Future of Florida Forum will be virtual.

Past Future of Florida Forums have been held in person, but the pandemic has forced the 2020 edition into cyberspace. While that changes up the venue, it won’t affect the content.

The Florida Chamber Foundation said the event will feature nine hours of content over three days, including engaging presentations, unique networking opportunities and insight from the leading voices in Florida and across the nation.

Like in past years, the Chamber’s presentations will be guided by its decadelong research project, Florida 2030, with some considerations for how COVID-19 has altered the immediate future for the state’s goal of becoming one of the top-10 economies in the world.

Those interested in attending the forum can sign up on the Florida Chamber Foundation website.

Prepping for 448

Are the Tallahassee bureaucracy and downtown lobbying groups growing too big?

Northwest Florida is getting a second area code overlaying 850. And later this month, the warmup to 448 begins when callers will be able to dial the area code ahead of local phone numbers.

Starting Feb. 20, 2021, when new numbers will start taking the 448 area code, all local calls must begin with the proper area code. As a grace period to reprogram equipment like home security systems, local calls can be made with or without the preceding area code.’

PSC Commissioner Gary Clark is giving NW Florida a six-month grace period to get used to a new area code.

“Customers will have six-months to transition, beginning Aug. 22, when local calls can be made by dialing either 7 or 10 digits,” said Florida Public Service Commission Chair Gary Clark. “This also gives customers adequate time to check and reprogram electronics and other equipment to incorporate 10-digit phone numbers.”

Examples of equipment that may need to be reset are life safety systems and medical monitoring devices, stored telephone numbers in mobile and cordless phone contact lists, fax machines, internet dial-up numbers, safety alarm and security systems and gates, speed dialers, call forwarding settings, voicemail services and similar functions.

The 850 area code extends from Escambia County to Taylor County.

Plasma needed

Florida Hospitals and physicians are urging COVID-19 survivors to donate their plasma to help combat the COVID-19 virus through an experimental treatment.

Presently, there is no FDA-approved medication or treatment designed specifically to treat COVID-19. Doctors, however, say that convalescent plasma therapy has shown effectiveness against the virus and can prevent some cases from worsening.

OneBlood is urging Floridians to donate plasma to help combat the COVID-19 virus.

“With the surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations across the state this summer, hospitals are reporting a 500% increase in the need for convalescent plasma,” said Florida Hospital Association Interim President Crystal Stickle. “We are asking anyone who meets the donation criteria to help their fellow citizens by donating plasma.”

Those who have recovered from COVID-19 are encouraged to contact the American Red Cross or OneBlood to learn more about donation eligibility and how to donate plasma.

“COVID-19 remains an active threat, and without a vaccine or a cure, the medical community is relying on several investigational treatments to help reduce the illness’ severity and ultimately, reduce the number of fatalities,” said Florida Medical Association CEO Tim Stapleton. “The public has a tremendous opportunity to help in the fight against COVID-19 by donating plasma if they are eligible.”

On Wednesday, the state crossed 500,000 COVID-19 total diagnoses.

Shining cities

The Florida League of Cities announced the winners of its annual Florida Municipal Achievement Awards this week.

FLC gives three awards: The City Spirit Award, the Florida Citizenship Award, and the Environmental Stewardship Award.

The City Spirit Award recognizes a specific citywide effort that successfully addresses a local need. This year’s winner is the City of Sunny Isles Beach for its “Pedestrian Safety Strategy.”

The Florida League of Cities is recognizing the City of Sunny Isles Beach for its ‘Pedestrian Safety Strategy.’

The Florida Citizenship Award focuses on city projects or programs that increase civic awareness and education and promote active participation in city government among residents. It went to the City of Palatka for its “Race Issue Study Circles.”

The Environmental Stewardship Award focuses on city programs that promote conservation, improve and protect environmental conditions, and/or provide environmental education and outreach programs. The City of Bonita Springs snagged the award for its “Felts Avenue Bioreactor Project.”

“Every year, the Florida Municipal Achievement Awards program recognizes cities that are paving the way for innovation and excellence in municipal government,” said Florida League of Cities President Isaac Salver, council member for the Town of Bay Harbor Islands.

“This year’s award winners are no exception. Revolutionary, resourceful and adaptable, these programs are transforming the way local governments operate and provide services. On behalf of the League, we’re very proud to recognize this year’s award winners.”

Child Support Awareness Month

The Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers is celebrating Child Support Awareness Month by highlighting the role Florida Clerks play in making sure payments make it to the children who rely on them.

The U.S. Office of Child Support Enforcement estimated nearly $1.5 billion in child support collections were distributed in the 2019 fiscal year, much of it flowing through court clerks.

Each year, Florida’s Clerks of Courts facilitate a high volume of child support transactions, many of which are interstate and international in scope.

Chris Hart IV, CEO of Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers, is Celebrating Child Support Awareness Month.

Florida’s Clerks of Courts provide assistance to both custodial and noncustodial parents by facilitating easy payment options, maintaining accurate and accessible records, and auditing payments of court-ordered child support.

“While Clerks of Court perform a wide range of local public services, their role in child support directly contributes to the safety, health, and financial security of Florida’s children — and that’s something we are proud to be a part of,” said Chris Hart IV, CEO of Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers. “Amid times of crisis, such as the current pandemic, Clerks’ role in child support services is more important than ever.”

As is the case with the majority of Clerk of Court services, the child support records maintained, and audits performed, are done so with careful attention to detail to ensure collections and disbursements are performed accurately and in compliance with court orders.

“I want to sincerely thank all of the diligent staff members at the Clerk of Court offices around the state,” Hart said. “The work you do helps all Floridians, especially the children of our state who rely on an effective child support system for their daily needs.”

Recycling champions

The Broward County Parks & Recreation, Special Populations Section took home the Recycling Champion Award from the Florida Recycling Partnership.

Miguel Solivan, the recreation coordinator who teaches special populations adults with developmental disabilities, created the award-winning 3R’s Arts and Crafts Program.

The program includes a class where students create art from recycled materials they have collected at their homes or from relatives and neighbors. They also learn to become the recycling champions in their own homes.

The 3R’s program now includes volunteers from NOVA University and the community who work alongside the art students expanding the reach of recycling education.

A special Recycling Champion Awards presentation took place via Zoom where Dawn McCormick, Director of Communications and Government Affairs for Waste Management and Chair of the Florida Recycling Partnership, presented the award to Solivan and his Parks & Rec team. Sen. Gary Farmer and Broward County Vice Mayor Steven Geller also attended the virtual presentation and congratulated Solivan, his students, and volunteers for a job well done.

Other attendees from the Broward County Parks & Recreation included assistant director Gayle Preston, Parks and Recreation, Special Populations Manager Mary Palacios, and Special Populations Group recreation coordinator Anamaria Cretu.

Florida Recycling Partnership is a coalition of leading Florida companies and associations with the mission to educate policymakers, business leaders, and the general public about the benefits of recycling. For more information about the Florida Recycling Partnership, go to www.flrecycling.org.

‘Life line’

The Florida Municipal Electric Association and Florida Municipal Power Agency are honoring the state’s public power lineworkers in a new social media campaign.

The campaign, launched this week, comes ahead of Florida Lineworker Appreciation Day later this month. Throughout August, both organizations will share videos and graphics on Facebook and Twitter that showcase “line life” from the perspective of 33 public power communities.

Throughout August, public power lineworkers will be honored for the vital role they play in keeping the power on.

Those posts share how line life impacts workers, their family and their communities, and how they prepare for the job each day.

“Every day is different. Some days they perform routine maintenance to ensure reliability and other days they are out after a storm restoring power,” said FMEA Executive Director Amy Zubaly. “No matter what they are doing, their goal is the same: to get the power back on quickly and to keep it on for their family, friends and neighbors.”

The Legislature created Florida Lineworker Appreciation Day in 2012 in memory of Marc Moore, a lineworker for Lakeland Electric who died in 2002 while on the job.

There are approximately 1,000 public power lineworkers in Florida today.

“We are grateful for Florida’s public power lineworkers and their commitment to serving their communities,” said Jacob Williams, FMPA general manager and CEO. “This month, we are honoring their service and sacrifice by highlighting the work they do and what it means to them.”

Record grants for FSU research

Florida State University researchers are receiving a record quarter billion dollars for the 2020 fiscal year.

Those funds, $250.1 million, are the sum of federal, state and private funds to contribute to health and engineering breakthroughs and more.

“One-quarter of a billion dollars is a big deal for Florida State and for Tallahassee,” said FSU vice president for Research Gary Ostrander.

FSU VP for Research Gary Ostrander touts the quarter-billion dollars to help boost innovation throughout the university.

That record total comes during a time when budgets are constrained amid the coronavirus pandemic. Still, FSU is receiving $16 million more for research than it did in fiscal year 2019, the previous record funding year, underscoring the funding’s significance.

Some of the university’s research aims to answer questions posed by COVID-19, a novel disease with little known about it for certain.

“Florida State is a trusted research partner, and this funding shows the confidence that federal, state and local officials have in the university,” Ostrander said. “Our researchers do excellent and important work, and this support will help them continue their efforts.”

Nearly $20 million goes toward the Center for Advanced Power Systems for power system technology. Of that, $14.6 billion comes from the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research for the Electric Ship Research and Development Consortium, which is developing a ship powered — propulsion, computers and all — by a single electric power source.

Other disbursements, totaling $9.4 million, will benefit the Florida Center for Reading Research’s exploration of reading education from birth through adulthood. The center supports projects such as the Florida Learning Disabilities Research Center and the Regional Education Laboratory Southeast.

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