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The Florida Legislature’s Response to COVID-19

On Thursday, lawmakers will adopt a $92 billion budget that sets aside $300 million in response to the coronavirus, boosting the state reserves to over $3.8 billion. The redirected funds stem from cuts in areas such as the Land Acquisition trust fund, Medicaid reversions, and the now $47.7 million tax package, preparing Florida for the impacts of the pandemic.

Included in the budget is $25 million to help the Florida Department of Health to combat the spread of COVID-19. A spokeswoman for Governor DeSantis said the funding could be used for “laboratory supplies and personal protective equipment; additional statewide staff to expand capacity to investigate and monitor individuals with COVID-19 and those at risk for contracting the virus; and enhanced communication to the general public, healthcare providers and visitors to our state.”

A press release from the Governor’s office thanked the Florida Legislature for their quick action that would “support the Florida Department of Health’s ability to receive new funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Florida Department of Health now has the ability to receive nearly $28 million in critical federal funds to support Florida’s ongoing efforts to mitigate and contain COVID-19”.

Governor DeSantis’ Response to COVID-19

On Tuesday, March 17, 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order No. 20-68 implementing the following:

  • The statewide closing of all bars and nightclubs for the next 30 days, any licensee authorized to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on premises that derive more than 50% of its gross revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages shall suspend all sale of alcoholic beverages for thirty days.
  • The Department of Business and Professional Regulation shall utilize its authorities under Florida law to further implement and enforce the provisions of this Section and shall take additional measures with respect to bars, pubs, and nightclubs as necessary to protect the public health, safety, and welfare.
  • Parties accessing public beaches in the State of Florida should follow the CDC guidance by limiting these gatherings to no more than ten personas, distance themselves from other parties by 6 feet, and support beach closures at the discretion of local authorities.
  • Restaurants should immediately limit their occupancy to 50% of its current building occupancy.
    • A restaurant shall follow the CDC guidance
    • The DBPR shall ensure all restaurants implement employee screening

Find Executive Order No. 20-68 Here

2019-2020 School Year Updates

  • Students will not return to campus until Wednesday, April 15th.
  • Governor DeSantis has directed Florida universities and colleges to participate in online classes for the remainder of the spring semester.
  • All remaining state testing for school readiness will be canceled for the 2019-2020 school year.
  • Requirements for graduation, grade promotion and final course grades will be evaluated as if those assessments did not exist.
  • Parents will have the option to choose whether to keep their children in the same grade for the 2021 school year.
  • K-12 grades will not be calculated for the 2019-2020 school year.
  • Schools and scholarships will remain fully funded as if this disruption did not happen and all fees for test-takers will be waved.
  • The unspent 2019-2020 funds will be redirected to the Department of Education to help low-income students acquire digital devices and internet connection so they can participate in remote construction.

$50 Million Bridge-Loan Program

Governor Ron DeSantis announced a $50 million bridge-loan program for businesses hurt by COVID-19. The state’s revenue department will also extend deadlines for businesses to pay corporate income taxes. The $50 million in state loans will supplement any loans made available by the U.S. Small Business Administration. People can apply for the loans, administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity; the interest-free loans can be up to $50,000.

Loan Details

  • Designated Disaster Areas: All Florida counties statewide per Executive Order 20-52.
  • Qualified Applicant: Applications will be accepted by qualified for-profit, privately held small businesses that maintain a place of business in the state of Florida. All qualified applicants must have been established prior to March 9, 2020, and suffered economic injury as a result of the designated disaster. Qualified small business applicants must be an employer business with 2 to 100 employees.
  • Amount: Up to $50,000 per eligible small business. Loans of up to $100,000 may be made in special cases as warranted by the need of the eligible small business.
  • Term: 1 year.
  • Limitation: Only one loan may be made per eligible business. All previous bridge loans received MUST be paid in full.
  • Interest Rate: Loans will be interest-free for the loan term (1 year). The interest rate will be 12% per annum on the unpaid balance thereafter until the loan balance is repaid in full. Loan default is subject to a normal commercial collection process.
  • Application Period: Applications will be accepted by qualified Florida small businesses under this program through May 8, 2020, contingent on the availability of funds.

To find out more visit: floridadisasterloan.org

Additional Information

  • The Florida Department of Health has launched a COVID-19 dashboard that will be updated twice daily to keep Florida residents and visitors safe, informed and aware of the status of the virus.
  • Florida recently partnered with private laboratories around the state to expand COVID-19 laboratory testing capacity. This partnership will increase the number of tests conducted each day and ensure Floridians receive the critical health information they need in a timely manner.
  • Division of Emergency Management has asked for 5,000 hospital beds and 5,000 ventilators; DOH had 500 ventilators – should get 75 ventilators a week.
  • Requested two million N95 masks; DOH has about 500,000 N95 masks on hand.
  • Moving mobile hospitals into the Villages area and Broward.
  • National Guard in Broward overseeing mobile testing.
  • Signing a contract with air charter to quickly get supplies to the affected area.

Helpful and Informative Links for State Government Agencies

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This publication is for general information only. It is not legal advice, and legal counsel should be contacted before any action is taken that might be influenced by this publication.

About Gunster

Gunster, Florida’s law firm for business, provides full-service legal counsel to leading organizations and individuals from its 12 offices statewide. Established in 1925, the firm has expanded, diversified and evolved, but always with a singular focus: Florida and its clients’ stake in it. A magnet for business-savvy attorneys who embrace collaboration for the greatest advantage of clients, Gunster’s growth has not been at the expense of personalized service but because of it. The firm serves clients from its offices in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Palm Beach, Stuart, Tallahassee, Tampa, The Florida Keys, Vero Beach, and its headquarters in West Palm Beach. With nearly 200 attorneys and 200 committed support staff, Gunster is ranked among the National Law Journal’s list of the 500 largest law firms and has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Diverse Law Firms by Law360. More information about its practice areas, offices and insider’s view newsletters is available at www.gunster.com.

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