Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced $29 million in development grants for 42 small and rural communities.
DeSantis made the announcement Monday in Green Cove Springs, slated to receive $700,000 for three neighborhood revitalization improvement projects.
Those funds are available through the Florida Small Cities Community Development Block Grant Program under the Department of Economic Opportunity. Only cities with populations less than 50,000 or counties with unincorporated populations less than 200,000 are eligible for the grants.
“We’ve got some really big populated areas — they’re great, and they do a lot for the state — but we’ve got to make sure that we’re tending to our small municipalities and some of our rural communities,” DeSantis said.
The first project will replace a 50-year-old stormwater pipe and install sidewalk curb asphalt and landscaping on West Street. The second will install 1.5 miles of sidewalk along Highland Avenue and Center Street. The final project will install picnic tables and benches at Vera Francis Hall Park.
“It’s my hope that we can extend an invitation to everybody here this morning to share the park,” Green Cove Springs Mayor Edward Gaw said. “I always say, once I get you into the park, I can guarantee you one thing, that you’re going to come back.”
DOE Executive Director Dane Eagle noted the $700,000 is on the larger end of funds communities are receiving.
“We’re going to be back,” he added. “We look forward to helping implement this great program and doing more economic development in the area.”
Enterprise Florida CEO Jamal Sowell was also on hand to tout the investment in workforce and infrastructure.
“I want to tell the world that Florida is open for business, is supportive of the men and women in uniform, and we want you to come here,” he said.
The DeSantis administration has already awarded nearly $16 million to small counties ahead of the latest awards, the Governor said. Clay County has received $9 million through the program.
Florida also has $75 million available in the Job Growth Grant Fund for workforce and infrastructure needs.
DeSantis touted his decision to end enhanced unemployment benefits through the federal government. When he announced that change in May, Florida had half a million job openings despite the pandemic. The state’s unemployment rate is below the national average.
Employers have received more job applications in the last three weeks than in the previous three months, DeSantis claimed. Having a workforce shortage is “a much better problem to have than to have the opposite problem,” he added.
“I think the states that have done that are going to lead with filling some of our positions, and the states that didn’t do that are going to continue to have a little bit more of the stagnation,” DeSantis said.