State awards Unite Us no-bid contract despite championing DEI
Stock image via Adobe.

DEI statement documents and small colorful figurines.
The state inked a $12M contract without public input.

Hurricane Ian destroyed large swaths of Southwest Florida, and left an intense need for social services personnel in its wake.

The state has contracted with multiple companies to supplement social services offerings in the months since, but one contract — granted without a competitive bidding process — was awarded to a company that celebrates its use of DEI.

DEI — shorthand for diversity, equity and inclusion — is a now-controversial governing principle that has become a bogeyman among Republican politicians, particularly in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has championed legislation defunding DEI programs at public colleges and universities.

The purpose of DEI, as its component words indicate, is to increase representation of people with diverse backgrounds; promote fairness and justice; and foster a sense of belonging among all people involved with the company or institution implementing DEI practices.

But conservatives have railed against DEI for promoting “discrimination” and for “indoctrination.”

That didn’t stop the Florida Department of Children & Families from working with Unite Us, a collaboration software vendor that was awarded a $12 million contract to deploy its platform in regions affected by Hurricane Ian.

Unite Us regularly touts its DEI practices, producing videos heralding it and winning awards for its programs in that arena.

“We are proud to announce that Unite Us is a recipient of the 2021 Diverse and Inclusive Employers Award. Through company-wide policies and practices, we continue to work to build an environment where all team members are supported equally in health, career and well-being,” the company wrote after it was recognized by The Startup Weekly.

“Thank you to our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) team, and our cross-functional DEI Committees for all their support and impact-focused initiatives, that have ensured we are upholding our values and foster an equitable and inclusive environment.”

In addition to its DEI programs, Unite Us has close ties to well-known liberal politicians through its financial backers, Oak HC/FT and TownHall Ventures.

Among the upper-level staff at Oak HC/FT is Dr. Ezekiel “Zeke” Emanuel, the brother of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who served as Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama and later as a member of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Advisory Board.

Meanwhile, TownHall Ventures is linked to Andy Slavitt, the Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for the last two years of the Obama administration and a Senior Adviser to the COVID-19 Response Coordinator from January 2021 to June 2021 under Biden.

Disaster response is always an apolitical endeavor, where those impacted have the space to feel comfortable healing and seeking the aid they need to make it happen. By contracting with an organization that has such deep ties to practices, individuals and groups known to promote leftist politics and liberal policies, the Florida Department of Children and Families is perhaps alienating individuals who differ in their ideologies.

Had the state utilized the transparent competitive bidding process, the public would have had a chance to weigh in. Instead, the state is partnering with a group that promotes policies it has clearly rejected.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as 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. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.

One comment

  • Dont Say FLA

    July 25, 2023 at 7:15 am

    Somebody in Florida made a good call? Do not be alarmed. When Rhonda learns of this, he will replace DEI with his preferred CEI. Shocking Rhonda allowed for any assistance whatsoever for hurrican victims given how Congressman Ron DeSantis voted against hurricane assistance for Hurricane Sandy and that was before he even trans-formed into hateful vengeful Rhondaroid.

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn