Gov. Ron DeSantis visited the Ivy House Restaurant in Williston on Friday morning to announce another round of workforce development and infrastructure funds primarily aimed at rural areas.
Of the $22.3 million announced, DeSantis said almost $17 million would go to rural counties and small cities, including $1.4 million to Otter Creek for town-wide broadband and $3.5 million to Hawthorne.
“We’re happy about being able to do this,” DeSantis said at the event. “We’ve been able to do a lot in many of these other counties already, and today, we’re going to do more.”
The funds can be used for a variety of projects including community centers and small business development grants. Included in the list recipients is $1 million for DeSoto County, $1.4 million for Tampa and $4.3 million for Key West.
DeSantis said Levy County could expect some more funds once the Florida Legislature sends him its budget and asked for advice on whether to sign a line item that sets aside nearly $500,000 for Levy County’s Bird Creek Boat Ramp to install a new boardwalk and add pavilions.
After the crowd’s approval, the governor said he’d sign and send the money.
Dane Eagle, Florida’s secretary for the department of economic opportunity, said the governor has pushed the department to get grant money out quickly and make sure the entire state stays ahead of the curve.
“He’s charged us with not forgetting our rural communities which is why it’s so exciting to make these grand announcements today.”
The following regional communities will receive funding awards through the Community Development Block Grant – CV Small Cities and Entitlement Programs, according to a release sent from the governor’s office:
City of Hawthorne ($3,538,035) – to construct a new Hawthorne Area Resource Center (HARC) that will provide foodbank, medical, and outreach services.
Marion County ($505,729) – to expand capacity capabilities for Marion County Children’s Advocacy Center’s continued growth.
DeSantis said the state’s financial situation surpassed expectations since the pandemic with income hitting $600-$700 million above predictions. By the end of the fiscal year, he said Florida will hit the record for the largest budget surplus in state history.
The governor said that success has come by being responsible, protecting people’s freedoms and keeping the economy open, but he worried that the country could enter a recession with inflation on the rise.
“We’ve also understood that we need to be prepared because, if I had to bet, I would bet Biden would plunge this county into a recession,” DeSantis said. “Look, I hope that’s wrong. I don’t want that to go.”
He said if it came to recession, Florida would fare better than most states with its surpluses. The state could plug any holes that might appear in its budget, and Desantis said the state would ensure its critical employees, like law enforcement and teachers, were covered.
“That’s really what good governance is about—making sure that you’re looking at what may happen down the road and you’re able to react accordingly,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis touched on several national issues including free speech. He praised Elon Musk for purchasing Twitter and said Florida, as a shareholder, had readied to make sure company officials accepted the buyout.
The governor said Musk’s move protects free speech even as President Joe Biden’s administration clamps down, citing the plan to create what he feels is an “office of disinformation” within the Department of Homeland Security.
“We’re not going to let Biden get away with this one so we will be fighting back,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis also spoke against eliminating student debt and reinforced the value of trade skills and education without needing a degree from a “brick and ivy university.” In February, DeSantis visited Santa Fe College and awarded $88 million to further its apprenticeship programs for electricians, HVAC technicians, plumbers and other trades across the state.
DeSantis also responded to a question on Second Amendment rights, saying Florida would pass a constitutional carry before he left office.
DeSantis continues to be active in rural Florida areas in recent months. On April 18, he presented Dixie County a $10 million for infrastructure projects and delivered a $3.5 million check to Lake Butler on Jan. 7 earmarked for hurricane preparedness projects.