Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday that all 174,000 of the state’s first responders would receive $1,000 bonuses, including police officers, paramedics, emergency medical technicians and firefighters.
“Approximately $208 million has been allocated from [the state Department of Economic Opportunity] for over 174,000 first responders across the state, including 49,405 sworn law enforcement officers, 40,732 EMTs, 35,811 firefighters and 33,185 paramedics in Florida,” the statement from the governor’s office said.
The authorization is in response to DeSantis’ calls earlier this year for bonuses to be included in the 2021-22 state budget. The Florida DEO is “working to immediately implement” the program, however, in order to expedite distribution.
The announcement from the GOP governor comes as lawmakers across the country work to defund the police amid months of rioting and calls to end policing entirely, in addition to demands that imprisonment be abolished in the United States.
During a press conference announcing the bonuses, DeSantis criticized other lawmakers’ moves to defund the police, saying, “Some want to defund the police. We’re funding the police and then some.”
DeSantis said supporting law enforcement has been a “top priority” for his administration, and that it “has never been more important than over the last year.”
“As a state, we are grateful for their continued service to our communities,” DeSantis said. “This one-time bonus is a small token of appreciation, but we can never go far enough to express our gratitude for their selflessness.”
Other Florida officials praised the governor’s decision, citing harsh working conditions that arose under the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When the Coronavirus came to Florida, our first responders worked overtime to protect our communities and get people the care they so desperately needed,” said Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis. “I say all the time that these men and women work 24/7, 365-days a year to protect our communities – and they performed with honor and distinction during this global pandemic.”
Patronis went on to say that the bonuses signal that “Florida loves and appreciates” its first responders.
Representative Jay Trumbull, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, echoed Patronis’ comments, praising the governor and the state’s first responders.
“Our first responders worked tirelessly through the pandemic to meet the needs of our communities,” Trumbull said. “In this year’s budget the Legislature affirmed our commitment to our first responders, and I am proud that we met the Governor’s request to provide them with bonuses to show our appreciation for their hard work and dedication to Florida.”