Florida’s $1,000 pandemic checks won’t have governor’s logo or take out taxes
The $ 1,000 pandemic bonuses paid to Florida's teachers, principals, and first responders don't include a governor's logo, the state says.
Although the state's contract with a private provider states that the bonuses must wear a Florida Department of Economic Opportunity-approved "Governor's Graphic Design Bureau," a department spokesman said the checks will be state-sealed instead.
However, it is unclear whether the checks are signed or in the name of Governor Ron DeSantis. A department spokesman did not respond when asked.
At DeSantis' request, lawmakers decided this year to spend more than $ 400 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to give $ 1,000 "bonuses" to hundreds of thousands of teachers, school principals, police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other first aiders .
But how the state decided to distribute the money has led some lawmakers and school officials to allegations that DeSantis was politicizing the process.
Rather than giving the money directly to state and local governments to deposit directly into employees' accounts, the state is paying a private company, Fidelity Investment Services of Jacksonville, $ 3.6 million to write and deposit the checks to send the recipients.
The state has defended its decision, saying the $ 3.6 million is well below the 10% normally used for administrative costs for federal funding.
In a statement, Emilie Oglesby, spokeswoman for the Department of Economic Opportunity, said the state had been discussing the disbursement of funds with local governments and "were concerned ... about possible delays in processing payments."
The Florida Education Association, a union that represents teachers and others, has denied this, stating that the school districts have already sent the money.
Oglesby said the state is also saving money by no longer calling the checks "bonuses". It now calls them "qualified disaster relief payments," which the state considers non-taxable income under IRS rules. That saves the state paying $ 14.7 million in wage taxes, Oglesby said.
Still, the Florida Department of Education wrote to school district leaders in a June letter that recipients "should consider contacting a tax advisor for more information."
Few other states have spent federal aid on bonuses. When Michigan sent $ 500 bonuses to teachers, it mailed them but said it still had taxes to pay. When Georgia gave teachers and school staff a similar $ 1,000 "withholding bonus", it sent the money to school districts for withholding taxes.
Florida selected Fidelity Investment Services to send out its bonus checks after "no vendor was able to respond and provide the required services within the required timeframe," said a Florida Department of Education spokesman.
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