Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Celebrates 2019 Accomplishments

Dec 23, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) shared accomplishments achieved for Floridians throughout 2019.

“Governor DeSantis has empowered our agency to do the right thing for Floridians,” said Ken Lawson, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “It is a pleasure to share the achievements my team has made in 2019 and how they have positively impacted Floridians across the state. I look forward to continued success in 2020, as we move forward on the momentum created this year.” 

Positive Economic Indicators
Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership and smart policies set in place by the Florida Legislature, Florida’s economy continues to experience positive economic indicators, including:

  • Labor Force – As of November 2019, Florida’s labor force continues to grow with 200,000 people entering the labor force at an annual growth rate of 1.9 percent.
  • Jobs – Over the past year, 201,700 new private-sector jobs were created in Florida. Additionally, Florida’s private sector job growth rate continues to exceed the nation, 2.6% to 1.6%.
  • Unemployment Rate – As of November 2019, Florida’s unemployment rate is at a historic low 3.1 percent.
  • Government Assistance Requests are down.
    • The number of active claims in the Florida Reemployment Assistance program continues to trend downward, confirming more people are able to find employment.
    • Floridians are requesting fewer food stamps than they did last year as well.
  • Consumer Confidence – As of November 2019, consumer sentiment is at 99.3, showing Floridians have certainty in the performance of Florida’s economy.

Florida Reemployment Tax Rate Continues to Remain at Lowest Possible Rate
Governor DeSantis announced more than 63 percent of Florida businesses will continue to pay the lowest possible rate for reemployment taxes in 2020. This is the fifth consecutive year employers have benefited from the low rate of 0.1 percent. Florida’s job growth rate continues to outpace the national average which has allowed the state to maintain the minimum reemployment tax rate for businesses. In 2012, employers paid more than $2.2 billion in taxes. Last year, businesses paid less than $514.2 million.

Florida Talent Development Council Strategic Plan
On December 20th, Governor DeSantis announced the Florida Talent Development Council has submitted their strategic plan to improve education and training attainment by Floridians and to align the programs and credentials offered in Florida with the needs of employers. The 16-member council, composed of legislative, business, workforce development and postsecondary education leaders, was tasked to develop a coordinated, data-driven, statewide approach to meeting Florida’s needs for a 21st century workforce that employers and educators use as part of Florida’s talent supply system.

Florida Job Growth Grant Fund
On July 1, Governor DeSantis announced that DEO and Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI) will accept economic development project proposals for the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund. $40 million has been made available to fund job training and public infrastructure projects that support growth and employment in Florida.

  •  FinTech Academies – In September, Governor DeSantis directed DEO and EFI to expedite the review of Florida Job Growth Grant Fund proposals that provide workforce training programs in the financial services industry, with a focus on FinTech skills training. DEO and EFI are looking for proposals from state colleges or state technical centers that focus on how their program will identify industry skill set needs and match them with private sector partners that will provide employment opportunities for those who complete the program.
  • First Job Growth Grant Fund Awarded - On October 10, Governor DeSantis announced an award for $2.86 million to help the Panama City community promote development, support job creation and workforce retention within an area that was adversely impacted by Hurricane Michael. The award will fund the construction of two new connecting roads and associated underground utilities to serve future housing and apartment developments in Panama City.
  • Melbourne Airport Authority Job Growth Grant Fund Award On November 13, Governor DeSantis awarded nearly $4 million to the Melbourne Airport Authority for infrastructure improvements at the Orlando Melbourne International Airport through the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund.

Rebuild Florida
Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, DEO has elevated the priority of administering funding provided through the federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program. Since January 2019, the agency has experienced the following accomplishments:

Community Development Block Grant - Mitigation Program
In October, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the launch of the state of Florida’s coordinated effort to access more than $633 million in first-of-its-kind federal funding for disaster mitigation projects. These funds are available through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) newly created Community Development Block Grant – Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) program formed in response to the 2016 and 2017 presidentially declared disasters. DEO is leading the state’s efforts in creating the State Action Plan that will provide a high-level strategy for how the funding will be used to address eligible communities’ disaster mitigation needs. DEO deployed a mitigation survey to the impacted communities seeking input on the communities’ unmet mitigation needs and conducted seven public hearings throughout the HUD most impacted areas. DEO has posted its initial draft of the State Mitigation Action Plan for public comment. The final plan will be submitted by February 3, 2020.

Hurricane Michael Recovery
Since Governor DeSantis took office, DEO has elevated the importance of developing the internal infrastructure of the long-term disaster recovery office to ensure we are prepared to implement programs as soon as funds are received. While the federal government has not yet released the federal register on how the agency can spend the $735 million allocated to Florida through the CDBG-DR program for long-term recovery efforts for those impacted by Hurricane Michael, DEO has begun the development of the State Action Plan, started an unmet needs assessment and identified innovative ways to assist Florida Panhandle communities.

  • $5 Million Available to Northwest Florida Region Through Rural Infrastructure Grant Fund – In September, Governor DeSantis announced $5 million in awards available to a six-county region in Northwest Florida comprised of local governments and municipalities in Calhoun, Gadsden, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty and Washington counties through the Rural Infrastructure Grant Fund. The application period closed in November and awards will be announced in January.
  • Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program – Immediately following Hurricane Michael, $20 million was made available through the activation of the Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program to support businesses in the Panhandle and help with recovery. In May, Governor Ron DeSantis provided an additional $25 million through the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program which helped more than 70 agricultural producers impacted by Hurricane Michael. In total, the Small Business Emergency Bridge loan has provided $34 million in loans to more than 500 businesses who were impacted by Hurricane Michael.
  • Helping Panhandle Families Get Back to Work – This year, Governor DeSantis announced that Florida has been awarded an additional $5.8 million in federal funding through the National Dislocated Worker Grant to provide temporary employment to Floridians affected by Hurricane Michael. The National Dislocated Worker Grant, administered DEO, provides disaster relief employment in the form of temporary jobs that support clean-up and recovery efforts in a declared disaster area. This is in addition to the $5 million award given in the fall of 2018.
  • Community Revitalization and Workforce Training - In February, Governor DeSantis announced more than $2.4 million in funding for communities in the Panhandle through DEO programs (Community Development Block Grant, Community Services Block Grant and Workforce Initiative and Opportunity Act State-Level funding).
    • The projects awarded through the Florida Small Cities Community Development Block Grant program include the following:
      • City of Blountstown – ($700,000) for the replacement of water lines, installation of new sewer lines and construction of new storm water facilities.
      • City of DeFuniak Springs – ($700,000) for the replacement of sewer lines, installation of manholes and replacing the chlorine analyzer of the water treatment plant.
      • City of Port St. Joe – ($511,500) for the replacement of sewer lines and repaving of streets.
  • The Jackson County School Board, in partnership with CareerSource Chipola and the Tri-County Community Action Agency, received $500,000 to create a Building Construction Technology program. The training program is helping generate skilled labor in the construction industry to assist with Hurricane Michael recovery efforts. Funding for the Building Construction Technology program was made available by DEO through the Community Services Block Grant and CareerSource Florida through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

Workforce Initiatives
Supporting a strong, qualified workforce is an important piece of building a competitive business environment. DEO has worked with our partners to secure nearly $6 million in federal and state funding to enhance workforce training efforts.

  • Everglades Restoration Agricultural Community Employment Training Program – In February, DEO announced and throughout the year provided $1.5 million in workforce development funding through the Everglades Training program.
  • Apprenticeship Expansion – In March, Governor DeSantis announced $1.75 million to create new and expanded apprenticeship programs across the state.
  • National Dislocated Worker Grant to Combat Opioid Crisis – In April, Governor DeSantis announced $2.5 million in funding from USDOL to help those who have been impacted by the opioid crisis to get the training they need to return to work.
  • Paychecks for Patriots - In November, DEO in partnership with CareerSource Florida, the Florida National Guard and the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs celebrated the 7thannual Paychecks for Patriots statewide hiring event for veterans and military families.
  • Work Opportunity Tax Credit Program - Since January, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) Program has issued 77,994 certifications resulting in a potential tax savings of $187,185,600 for Florida businesses. The WOTC program gives businesses an opportunity to earn a federal tax credit when they hire a new employee who qualifies for one of the program’s target groups.
  • Fidelity Bonding Demonstration Grant - In June, DEO was awarded a $100,000 Fidelity Bonding Demonstration Grant from the U.S Department of Labor to expand the use of fidelity bonds to help job seekers with criminal records obtain employment.
  • Training Floridians - Since January, more than 121,500 participants have received staff assisted services through Employ Florida in Wagner-Peyser and Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act. Additionally, Welfare Transition and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program helped 56,491 individuals attain economic self-sufficiency since Jan. 1, 2019.
  • Reemployment Assistance - During fiscal year 2019-2020, the Reemployment Assistance Program has provided benefits to 148,173 individuals who lost their job to no fault of their own and paid $328 million in temporary assistance while they looked for new employment. This is down from 163,406 individuals and $384 million in benefits in fiscal year 2018-2019. The average duration of benefits was 9.2 weeks.

Community Development Initiatives
DEO is committed to helping Florida communities achieve their economic and resiliency goals through smart, strategic investments. In the last year, DEO has awarded more than $27.3 million in funding for communities across Florida.

  • Infrastructure EnhancementsIn February, Governor DeSantis announced the City of Lawtey will receive $600,000 to improve the existing water distribution and related fire protection system within 10 service areas. In March, Governor DeSantis announced nearly $600,000 in awards to improve public infrastructure to several North Florida communities.
  • Keys Canal Restoration Work Program – In April, Governor DeSantis announced his request of DEO to immediately begin developing a Canal Restoration Work Program that will set forth a definitive timeline for canal restoration with essential milestones for the completion of the project. In June, DEO presented to the Florida Cabinet and received approval to designate the Canal Restoration Work Program as a crucial component of the environmental protection plan for the Florida Keys Area of Critical State Concern.
  • Infrastructure and Economic Development Projects – In May, Governor Ron DeSantis announced more than $1.6 million in funding for infrastructure and economic development projects in small and rural Florida communities. The funds are administered by the DEO from the Florida Small Cities Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Rural Infrastructure Fund (RIF) and Regional Rural Development Grant (RRDG).
    • In September, Governor DeSantis announced more than $1.4 million in awards to the City of Fanning Springs through the Rural Infrastructure Fund grant and a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to help fund infrastructure improvements that are expected to attract new businesses and tourists to the area.
  • Competitive Florida – In July, Governor DeSantis announced $240,000 in Competitive Florida Partnership grant awards, administered by DEO to seven rural communities across the state. An additional award of $40,000 was awarded to another community this year. These awards establish a partnership with DEO and provide funding assistance to small rural areas to begin the strategic economic development planning process.
  • Infrastructure and Reinvestment Grants for Military Communities – In July, Governor DeSantis announced more than $2.9 million in funding for military related programs through the Defense Infrastructure Grant Program and the Defense Reinvestment Grant Program, administered by DEO. These grants provide funding to defense-dependent communities to support advocacy and military community relations.
  • Community Planning Technical Assistance – In July, Governor DeSantis announced more than $750,000 in Community Planning Technical Assistance grants to 19 Florida communities. These grants, administered by DEO, fund innovative planning and development strategies to promote economic diversity while protecting environmentally sensitive areas. Additionally, since January 2019, more than 1,200 instances of community planning technical assistance has been provided to local governments to assist communities with creating their vision and achieving their goals through strong community planning practices.
  • Florida Small Cities Community Development Block Grant Program – In July, Governor DeSantis announced $16.2 million in awards for 24 small and rural communities across the state through the Florida Small Cities Community Development Block Grant program. Administered by DEO, this program helps communities fund economic activities, infrastructure improvements and housing rehabilitation.
  • Rural Community Development Revolving Loan Fund – In November, Governor DeSantis announced $3 million available through the Rural Community Development Revolving Loan Fund. Administered by DEO, the fund provides local governments with access to financial assistance to promote the economic viability of rural Florida communities.

Business Development Initiatives

Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, DEO, in partnership with Enterprise Florida Inc., have worked to diversify Florida’s economy in targeted industries and contribute to the creation of a robust and resilient economy.

  • In July, Governor DeSantis congratulated OneWeb Satellites on the opening of a high-volume, high-speed advanced satellite production facility in Exploration Park, Florida. OneWeb Satellites has committed to create 250 high-wage jobs in connection with this project.
  • In August, Governor DeSantis announced that SoFi Lending Corp. and SS&C Technologies will create nearly 500 jobs in the Jacksonville area. Recruiting businesses in the financial, technology and banking sectors is a priority of the Governor’s administration.
  • In November, Governor DeSantis announced that FIS, a financial services technology (FinTech) company, will build a new, expanded world headquarters in Jacksonville – reaffirming Florida’s position as a hub for the financial services industry. FIS has committed to the creation of 500 high-wage jobs for Floridians.

Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund Program – Since January 1, 2019, DEO has executed 56 Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund Agreements totaling job creation commitments of more than 6,700 new Florida jobs. Projects associated with these executed agreements span industries including, manufacturing, life sciences, financial services, information technology, research and development, aviation/aerospace and corporate headquarters.

Community Contribution Tax Credit Program (CCTCP) – Since January 1, 2019, DEO has approved 281 applications for $17.0 million worth of tax credits within the CCTCP. These tax credits were based on donations of more than $34 million from private sector businesses to approved projects. Administered by DEO, this program helps non-profit organizations raise money for capital improvement projects or housing projects for low-income persons.

RAO Building Materials Sales Tax Refund Program – Since January 1, 2019, DEO has approved 243 applications for more than $800,000 worth of refunds. These refunds were based on the construction of 243 new houses within one of the Rural Areas of Opportunity (RAO). Administered by DEO, this program encourages new construction projects located within an RAO. Rural Areas of Opportunity are defined as rural communities that have been adversely affected by extraordinary economic events or natural disasters.

R&D Tax Credit Program – Since January 1, 2019, DEO has provided 104 DEO Certification Letters within the R&D Tax Credit Program. A total of 188 corporations submitted applications to the Department of Revenue and requested more than $100 million worth of tax credits based on research conducted in Florida. Administered by the Department of Revenue, this program provides a corporate income tax credit to corporations that incur research expenses in Florida.

Protecting Taxpayer Investments

Compliance Achievements
In 2019, DEO has recovered more than $31 million in funds from awardees not meeting contract agreement terms. Compliance has reviewed to date 83% of all claims submitted, compared to last year at 67%. There is also 7% more claims this year over last year. This progress is through enhanced efficiencies and reduced the time for claim approval over the last three years from 2017 at 239 days, 2018 at 225 days and in 2019 now at 158 days.

Legal Accomplishments
The DEO Office of the General Counsel has had a successful year, including some of the following actions protecting taxpayer dollars:

  • Assisted with successfully negotiating a settlement with SRI International, Inc., which resulted in the return of $2 million taxpayer dollars;
  • Amicably settled disputes with multiple former employees;
  • Facilitated a settlement with Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation, which resulted in $1.6 million in taxpayer dollars and $665,000 in loans being returned to the state of Florida;
  • Facilitated a settlement with The Florida Black Business Support Corporation, which resulted in more than $400,000 in taxpayer dollars and $100,000 in loans being returned to the state of Florida;
  • Resolved a dispute with Quest Software, Inc. over computer software products prior to the initiation of litigation;
  • Assisted with the lawsuit which resulted in a dismissal involving the prior leased space at Northwood;
  • Assisted with the defense and dismissal of a case against the agency involving a car accident;
  • Assisted with the defense and dismissal of a case that involved allegations of employment discrimination;
  • Began reviewing all agency rules to determine changes and updates that are required and beneficial to the agency; and
  • Reviewed 1,822 contracts in 2019.

Finance and Administration
DEO’s Bureau of Human Resource Management (HRM) has been working on an imaging project for all active personnel files, an estimated 190,000 documents, with hopes to continue imaging all inactive files over the next few years. The Fair Labor Standards Act new rule necessitated a complete review of all employee position descriptions. Determinations were made by HRM that will impact at least 750 employees who will now be considered “included” for overtime pay purposes.

About DEO

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity combines the state’s economic, workforce and community development efforts, expediting economic development projects to fuel job creation in competitive communities and promote economic resiliency. For more information, including valuable resources for employers and job seekers, please visit www.floridajobs.org.


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