U.S. Sen. Scott donates to Florida organizations focusing on Puerto Ricans’ hurricane recovery

Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González and Florida Sen. Rick Scott (Courtesy)

To give 1st quarter Senate salary to legal clinic and faith-based, woman-focused group

SAN JUAN – Florida Sen. Rick Scott announced he will donate his first quarter Senate salary to two organizations committed to Puerto Rico disaster recovery efforts.

According to a release published Wednesday, the senator’s pay will go to Legal Services Clinic of Puerto Rican Community in Orlando and the Mujeres Restauradas Por Dios of Tampa.

“Following Hurricane Maria, the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida opened a nonprofit legal clinic focused on providing legal services to Puerto Ricans who have settled in Florida. The clinic employs displaced Puerto Rican attorneys and provides free and affordable legal aid to the Puerto Rican community,” the release explains.

As for Mujeres Restauradas Por Dios, it is “a faith-based, non-profit organization that helped families from Puerto Rico integrate into the community by opening a welcome center in Tampa and connecting them with vital services, including housing, job placement, and medical care,” according to the senator’s office.

“As Governor and now as Senator, I have stood with the Puerto Rican community, both in Florida and on the Island, and worked to provide every resource available to aid in their recovery,” Scott said in his statement. “I’m honored to support two incredible organizations that went above and beyond to help Puerto Rican families who came to Florida following Hurricane Maria. It’s humbling to see these organizations, and so many generous volunteers, come together to support our fellow Americans in their time of need, and together, we will never stop fighting for Puerto Rico.”

Florida Politics calculated that U.S. Senators are paid $174,000 a year, so a quarter of that would be a $43,500, going to the two groups.

“Scott doesn’t personally need the money, as he might be the wealthiest member of the U.S. Senate, with a net worth most recently reported in the range of $232 million in 2017,” the outlet said.




[Editorial] Undertow Politics

Editor’s note: The following originally appeared in the Feb. 7 -13, 2019, issue of Caribbean Business.

Sen. Rick Scott arrived in Puerto Rico early this week, brought downstream from Capitol Hill to the island by political undercurrents that were set in motion well before midterm elections that saw him win a Senate seat by a razor-thin margin.

At face value, Sen. Scott’s visit was repayment—political quid pro quo—of a favor to Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner, Jenniffer González, who was instrumental in rallying support of Puerto Rican voters who helped elect the former Florida governor. He feels her endorsement was important because more than 1 million Puerto Ricans now live along the I-4 corridor in Orlando, often referred to as Puerto Rico’s 79th municipality.

Although Sen. Scott held several meetings—including one at the P.R. State Department hosted by Secretary Luis G. Rivera Marín, which was attended by leaders of the island’s private sector—his visit helped show that Resident Commissioner González had access to power.

Puerto Rico’s nonvoting member in the U.S. Congress is attempting to get out in front of “a little engine that could,” named Carmen Yulín Cruz, who rose to national prominence as the mayor of San Juan by taking on the administration of President Donald Trump for a pusillanimous response in helping Puerto Rico recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. If Carmen Yulín decides to throw her hat into the ring, she has a billionaire trifecta—former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer and George Soros, who reportedly would back her.

Two sources on the Hill with knowledge of the San Juan mayor’s potential run have seen Rep. Nydia Velázquez taking Carmen Yulín on door-to-door visits to members of Congress. Most of those who have spoken to the San Juan mayor agree that her English is very good.

If the resident commissioner’s post were decided on Capitol Hill, the mayor would seem a formidable candidate—but the votes are cast in Puerto Rico. And her performance as mayor on the ground in San Juan is a different story—her less-than-stellar job in the aftermath of the hurricane has drawn its share of criticism from San Juan residents. What we don’t know is how voters throughout the rest of the island perceive her.

So, González is praying mightily that Scott and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will help rally bipartisan support for important initiatives that the resident commissioner is pushing on Capitol Hill. To the resident commissioner’s credit, she scored one for Puerto Rico in helping to secure language in HR 268, which adds some $600 million in disaster-relief funds for Puerto Rico.

González also recently introduced a measure for local residents to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which would help bring equal funding to the island’s aged, blind and disabled people who have little or no income, and provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing and shelter.

On the tax front, the resident commissioner’s work could bring equal treatment to the island if the Earned Income Tax Credit Equity for Puerto Rico Act of 2019 makes it out of the House and is passed by the Senate. Tough sledding. As it stands right now, families across the United States are eligible for the credit upon the birth of their first and second child; in Puerto Rico, families are only eligible when they have three children or more.

In the realm of healthcare, González is pushing the Puerto Rico Integrity in Medicare Advantage Act. HR 6809 would, among other changes, stabilize Medicare Advantage rates paid to Puerto Rico through 2021, a funding windfall of some $3 billion. More importantly, provisions included in the measure stipulate that no less than 50 percent of those funds would go to healthcare providers.

That measure has people on the Hill, particularly those in the Republican Party to which González belongs, scratching their heads because they cannot understand why she is positioning Medicare as a handout, when Puerto Rico’s workforce pays full Social Security taxes, which should cover full rates for the island. Still, Puerto Rico receives only 43 percent of the national average.

González is fighting mightily to push through measures that would benefit Puerto Rico, but it will take a Republican Senate to see those initiatives pass.

Whether Scott is truly “the self-proclaimed Senator for Puerto Rico,” as the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration’s Carlos Mercader told this newspaper, is yet to be seen. Scott’s support for President Trump’s option to call a state of national emergency if he fails to secure $5.7 billion for his border wall monolith is reason for concern, because it would allow the president to secure unseized military funds, which includes disaster-relief money for jurisdictions that were savaged by nature in 2017.

This newspaper was told by a high-level source with ties to the Trump administration that Scott is extremely smart, “he knows that if things are done that can create economic activity for Puerto Rico, it is important for the federal Treasury because it would be very difficult for Republicans to explain potential future actions if those had to be taken. Democrats who believe in identity politics would be happy to write a big check for Puerto Rico; Republicans would not.”

González will have to work both sides of the aisle, but Puerto Rico should not be counting on Congress. We have to figure our own way out of these treacherous waters; it is a tough swim with sharks on the Hill.




Sen. Scott becomes an ally for Puerto Rico

The Senator From Florida Goes After Low-Hanging Fruit

Editor’s note: The following originally appeared in the Feb. 7 -13, 2019, issue of Caribbean Business.

When freshman Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) speaks about Puerto Rico issues, he gives the impression that he is just becoming acquainted with the island’s many challenges impeding economic development—this despite his terms in office as the governor of Florida, where more than 1 million Puerto Ricans reside along the I-4 corridor. He knows a thing or two about the tremendous challenges Puerto Rico faces under the constraints of the Financial Oversight & Management Board enabled by the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management & Economic Stability Act (Promesa) because he had to cater to his Puerto Rican constituents to win the Senate seat he now holds.

Yet, during a meeting hosted inside the Puerto Rico State Department’s executive boardroom, hosted by Secretary of State Luis G. Marín and Puerto Rico Federal Affairs (PRFAA) Executive Director Carlos Mercader, Scott listened attentively to members of the island’s private sector as though he were unaware of the laundry list of gripes voiced in that room.

For instance, when it came to disaster-relief funding, he was not aware of the fracas between Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) over the conditions under which that money was to be disbursed. People in the room explained that Puerto Rico gets only half ($750) the national average in Section 8 housing vouchers; that FEMA was cutting disaster relief. “We at the AGC [Associated General Contractors of America] are very vigilant about the funding that is supposed to come for Puerto Rico’s reconstruction,” said AGC President Alejandro Abrams, in reference to the Community Development Block Grant. “We heard in today’s news that FEMA cut $1 billion from the reconstruction of schools. They had included all sorts of money for Puerto Rico’s reconstruction in their assessment and now they are changing that assessment based on the application of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which included language indicating that Puerto Rico was not going to have pre-existing conditions tied to funding. While there are general guidelines that apply, that is changing by the minute.”

“That is done through HUD?” he asked, to which he got an affirmative response, which prompted him to punctuate his remark with “just put that in writing for me and I will get it to [U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development] Secretary [Benjamin] Carson.”

Urgent, urgent—emergency?

It seems unlikely, however, that the senator’s work on Puerto Rico’s behalf will lead to swift action by HUD. Sen. Scott has been vocal in calling for President Donald J. Trump to declare a national emergency over the $5.7 billion that Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are refusing to assign for the construction of a wall along the Southern border of the United States. Caribbean Business asked the senator whether he was aware that in so doing Trump would be able to access unseized military funding originally destined for the reconstruction of jurisdictions that were impacted by the 2017 hurricanes.

“Well, here’s what I believe. First of all, I don’t believe that the government should shut down,” Scott said with a steely stare. “I also believe we should fund it properly through U.S. Congress. If you look at all of us, we are not for a government shutdown. Does anybody think that we should not have border security?— ‘No.’ So Congress should do its job. I understand the frustration on the president’s part when the things he is proposing do not happen. So, I would hope that he doesn’t have to use emergency funding. But if he does declare an emergency, I hope he does it a way that does not impact disaster relief because of what Puerto Rico has gone through. People need that relief funding, that is why I am hoping that Congress will do their job. Also, if he does obtain the funding, I think he should take care of the DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] kids at the same time. They did not do anything illegal. They came here, and we helped raise them.”

Truth be told, Puerto Rico exposed itself to be treated differently early in the recovery process when it insisted on receiving other funding—Community Disaster Loan (CDL) money from the U.S. Treasury (UST) in March. That the Rosselló administration wanted the money without ties caused friction within the rank and file at the UST.

When U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin visited Puerto Rico in March 2018 for a meeting with Gov. Rosselló and members of the Financial Oversight & Management Board (FOMB), many local government officials were encouraged by news that the feds had increased a liquidity threshold for the release of funds tied to the CDLs. The original conditions for fund disbursement—that Puerto Rico’s Treasury Single Account had to dip below $800 million—was increased by $300 million to $1.1 billion. The loan agreement is hardly free of conditions, according to additional terms being drafted by the UST.

“The conditions tied to the loan are perhaps more complicated because of Promesa and what it calls for, which is not something other jurisdictions have to deal with,” one source on the Hill, with ties to the Trump administration, previously told Caribbean Business. “It is precisely what the governor has been trying to do [get the funds unencumbered] and the U.S. Treasury has been pushing back because this is not optional. This is the way the U.S. Congress has laid out the law. This is the way it has to be.”

The conditions were mapped out in an addendum that is particular to Puerto Rico’s case which, because of Promesa’s stipulations, sets in black and white the CDL funding uses. The doctrine underpinning this set of rules hinges on keeping monies destined far from debt servicing and payment for lobbyists and advisers.

The loan, whose purpose is to support cash needs, may be drawn upon until Oct. 31 and, after that time, no drawdowns can occur. It will be repaid twice a year, in July and January.

The money can be used to fund essential services, payroll and benefits, pensions, facilities maintenance that is not infrastructure improvements and to buy materials or pay suppliers. It cannot be used to pay debt service, refinance debt, pay for capital improvements, restore damaged facilities, provide tax refunds, pay for lobbying or pay for any Title III costs. It cannot be used to transfer funds, pay for administrative costs of federal disaster assistance or pay for disaster-related expenditures.

“The stuff that it cannot be used for seems fairly reasonable, because if you are going to obtain money from FEMA to repair things, don’t get charged against this—that is a different bucket of money and we are not going to let you do that,” the Trump source added.

Two sources with knowledge of the negotiations tied to the loan explained that because Puerto Rico is restructuring its debt through Title III of Promesa, the funds will not be granted unencumbered. “The other important thing to know is that this document is heavily predicated on the Promesa board’s approved budgets—the thing that baffles people is that the governor believes it is predicated on his budget, no matter what the board says. If that is true, he is never going to get that money.”

Where there is a will…

Decidedly there is much that could be done by U.S. Congress if there were the political will. Among the low-hanging fruit discussed at the meeting was the lack of parity in Medicare and Medicaid funding for the island. At this writing, Puerto Rico is pushing for Congress to pass the Puerto Rico Integrity in Medicare Advantage Act (Prima), which would increase the reimbursements to Medicare Advantage. The legislation also seeks to stop the exodus of medical professionals by eliminating payment disparities.

Some in the room feel Sen. Scott is all in on Puerto Rico. “There are reasons to be encouraged that we have Sen. Scott as an ally for Puerto Rico, although it is easy to be pessimistic based on past experiences,” PRFAA Executive Director Carlos Mercader told Caribbean Business in a quick aside after the roundtable with the senator. “Puerto Rico issues had never had the exposure that they have now. He has self-proclaimed that he is the senator for Puerto Rico. He has only been in his post for six weeks and he has taken Puerto Rico to heart as something very personal. Add to that the help that [U.S. Sen. Charles] Chuck Schumer [D-N.Y.] has been providing. It doesn’t mean things are going to change overnight. But there is good reason to be optimistic.”

It all boils down to politics, according to the GOP source. “I think this is Jenniffer González trying to flex her muscle showing she has access and that being in the House minority doesn’t mean she won’t be able to get things done for Puerto Rico. And he gives her credit for his performance in the [midterms] with the Puerto Rican constituents. He views her help as being instrumental in Florida in general and that community in particular. So, I think those are the big-ticket items.”

Rallying support of his colleagues in the GOP—let alone bipartisan support inside a very dysfunctional Congress—is an exercise steeped in hardship. “I was only one person when I started a company and, 10 years later, we had 5,000 people working and we added 1.7 million jobs in Florida. I believe you just have to work hard at it. We all have to work together to get things done,” Scott said in reference to the dysfunction that reigns on Capitol Hill. “I have gotten things done by building relationships and having ideas that I believe in. It isn’t going to be easy. Everybody ought to work together to figure out how things can get done.”

(Screen capture of www.c-span.org)

“So, I’m optimistic that if we all go up there with the right ideas and work together, we can get things done. My experience with government is that they are like actors, they just talk, and nothing gets done,” said Scott, who knows Capitol Hill politics well from his two terms as governor of Florida. “I’ll give you the example of Florida. When I came into office, the prices of homes had dropped 50 percent and we managed to create 1.7 million jobs and home prices went up by 50 percent. Now, we actually need workers. So, if you get on a plane today, you can have a job in Florida tomorrow. That makes it difficult for Puerto Rico. So, we have to figure out Puerto Rico’s strengths and play to them and then build on them.”

If we build it, they will come

Among the strengths the senator sees for Puerto Rico is the development of the island’s tourism industry as an untapped source of job creation. “The island is a part of the United States; it has beautiful beaches, beautiful weather. So, I see an opportunity to grow tourism if the money is spent properly—it will represent a lot of jobs. When I became governor of Florida, we had 80 million tourists coming to the state. The last year I was in office, we had 125 million [visitors] and we had some 4 million jobs,” Scott told Caribbean Business. “The other opportunity Puerto Rico has is in the ports. In Florida, we had some 15 seaports. In Florida, we invested over $4 billion over eight years, and we saw more than a 300,000 increase in trade jobs.”

Added to that the senator believes the new Congress should see to it that there is a change in tax policy, so it benefits the island and is not a hindrance. “We have talked quite a bit about that; we saw what happened at the end of 2017, and we have to work on that. Those are the things long term that are going to help the island become self-sufficient,” the senator added.

Provisions in Trump’s tax policy, which aim to bring operations and jobs back to the United States from overseas locations, apply to Puerto Rico just as they would to foreign countries. In addition, a 12.5 percent tax on profits derived from intellectual property held in foreign jurisdictions also applies to the island.

González, however, is trying to equalize matters by filing legislation that would extend supplemental Social Security benefits to Puerto Rico, which are mainly available to stateside residents.

The source with ties to the Trump administration put it like this: “The senator is really smart on financial issues; [Scott] understands that Puerto Rico doesn’t have a real government and the actions are subject to review by the courts and all of this debt problem could eventually be transferred to the U.S. Treasury. Sen. Scott knows that if things are done that can create economic activity for Puerto Rico, it is important for the federal Treasury because it would be very difficult for Republicans to explain potential future actions if those had to be taken. Democrats who believe in identity politics would be happy to write a big check for Puerto Rico; Republicans would not.”




Puerto Rico’s congresswoman celebrates victory of midterm candidates she endorsed

(Courtesy)

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner in Washington, D.C., Jenniffer González Colón, celebrated several victories in the U.S. midterm elections, including two “transcendental” ones for Puerto Ricans, Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s defeat of Bill Nelson for a Senate seat and former congressman Ron DeSantis’s becoming the state’s governor.

“Puerto Rico wins an important ally in the federal Senate. The triumph of Rick Scott, who as governor has given Hispanics tools to prosper to the point of making Florida the second state with most Latino businesses and his commitment to Puerto Rico was more than proven after Hurricane Maria, assures us a strong voice and a vote along with Marco Rubio in the federal Senate for the causes of the island,” González Colón said in a statement.

The resident commissioner backed Scott since his 2010 gubernatorial re-election campaign until becoming in these elections his spokeswoman before the Hispanic community.

“Scott’s victory is historic because in addition to defeating Bill Nelson, who had been in Congress for 40 years, it assures a strong ally of the resident commissioner in the Senate to give continuity to legislation in favor of Puerto Rico in a Senate where Scott will be in the majority,” a release issued by her office reads.

“I congratulate my friend Rick Scott, who becomes the new senator from Florida and Puerto Rico, without neglecting his responsibilities to rebuild a state that was impacted by a hurricane in the middle of the campaign. I thank all those who heard our message in favor of Scott so we could be able to celebrate this triumph together today. Florida chose a great man,” González Colón added.

The congresswoman applauded another victory in Florida, where the governor who won was her colleague at the U.S. House, Ron DeSantis, whom González Colón introduced Monday in his last campaign event in Central Florida.

“Congratulations to my friend and friend of Puerto Rico, Ron DeSantis, for this victory. The campaign message we delivered in favor of democracy, of statehood for Puerto Rico, of continuing the path traced by Scott in Florida for a prosperous economy was welcomed by Floridians,” González Colón said.

For both campaigns, the resident commissioner was accompanied by Puerto Rico Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz, House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez, former Govs. Luis Fortuño and Carlos Romero Barceló; Sens. Nelson Cruz and Nayda Venegas; Reps. José Aponte Hernandez, Enrique “Quiquito” Meléndez, Lourdes Ramos, Abid Quiñones, María Milagros Charbonier, Manuel Claudio, Jackie Rodríguez and Eddie Charbonier; Secretary of State Luis Rivera Marín; Bayamón Mayor Ramón Luis Rivera; and the National Committeewoman of the Republican Party in Puerto Rico, Zoraida Fonalledas.




HUD approves $616 million Florida disaster recovery plan

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Housing Secretary Ben Carson (Screen capture of www.hud.gov)

SAN JUAN – U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson has approved a disaster recovery plan to help Floridians recover from Hurricane Irma. In November, HUD allocated $616 million to support long-term recovery efforts in the state.

The plan is funded through HUD’s Community Development Block Grant—Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program, which requires grantees to develop a “thoughtful recovery program informed by local residents,” according to the department’s release.

“It’s great news that we were able to secure critical funding from HUD that will directly benefit the families who were most affected by last year’s storms. This $616 million will enable communities to build new affordable housing and to replace homes lost in the wake of last year’s hurricane season. Through this program, we can continue to move forward with long-term affordable housing solutions for displaced families as well as provide grants to businesses who were impacted by the storm,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott was quoted saying in the release.

Several housing and economic development recovery needs arising from Hurricane Irma were identified, the release reads, listing the following programs designed to address them:

  • Housing Repair Program ($273.3 million) will rehabilitate housing occupied by low- and moderate-income families that was damaged by Hurricane Irma. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) will centrally manage the following activities on behalf of eligible homeowner and rental property owner applicants:
    • Repairs to, reconstruction or replacement of housing units damaged by Hurricane Irma, which may include bringing the home into code compliance and mitigation against future storm impacts, including elevation.
    • The completion of work to homes that have been partially repaired.
    • Repairs to, or replacement of, manufactured homes impacted by Hurricane Irma.
    • Temporary housing assistance based on individual household needs and their participation in the Housing Repair Program.
  • Workforce Affordable Rental New Construction Program ($100 million) will facilitate the creation of affordable rental housing though a partnership with DEO and the Florida Housing Finance Corporation by leveraging CDBG-DR funds with low-income housing tax credits as well using CDBG-DR funds for zero-interest loans for smaller developments.
  • Land Acquisition for Affordable Workforce Housing ($20 million) provides funding for the purchase of land for development into affordable housing, especially in areas of the state where the scarcity of developable land makes it difficult to construct properties that can be rented at an affordable rate for the community’s workforce.
  • Voluntary Home Buyout Program ($75 million) encourages risk reduction through the voluntary purchase of residential properties in high flood-risk areas. Communities that participate in this program are encouraged to develop plans for the reuse of the acquired land to further reduce flood risk and/or serve as a recreational space for the public.
  • Recovery Workforce Training Program ($20 million) will bolster workforce training throughout the state with the goal of growing the skilled labor force needed to support the long-term recovery, primarily in the housing construction field.
  • Business Recovery Grant Program ($60 million) provides funding for eligible business owners who are seeking reimbursement for the cost of replacing equipment and inventory damaged by Hurricane Irma.
  • Business Assistance to new Floridians from Puerto Rico ($6 million) provides business plan guidance, accounting services, licensing information and other resources to support assistance in assimilating to the business climate in the State of Florida.

In April, HUD also allocated an additional $791 million of CDBG-DR funding to Florida for unmet needs, infrastructure and mitigation purposes. The department said it will “shortly issue requirements governing those funds, and Florida, along with other states, will be required to submit plans addressing their use.”




Florida gov announces partnership to connect those displaced by Hurricane Maria with jobs

SAN JUAN – Following a recently announced $1 million investment in Florida’s workforce system to help Puerto Ricans find jobs in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott announced a new job placement partnership between education, business and workforce development organizations.

CareerSource South Florida, the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of South Florida and the Ana G. Méndez University System will work together to connect people relocating from the island with available job positions and provide job training.

Florida gov announces $1 million to connect Hurricane Maria Evacuees with Jobs

The announcement took place on the university’s South Florida campus. It has provided scholarships for more than 50 Puerto Rican students to continue their studies in Florida.

“This week, I visited Puerto Rico and assured everyone there that Florida will continue to help those displaced by Hurricane Maria in any way that we can,” Scott said in a release issued by his office. “Our state currently has more than 260,000 job opportunities because of our focus on the economy, and this new partnership will make sure that every family has the ability to support themselves and get back on their feet.”

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) Executive Director Cissy Proctor said in the release that the agency “will continue to use these grants and all other resources we have available to help families impacted by Hurricane Maria return to work.”

The president of the university, José F. Mendéz, added, “Our learning centers in Florida, through our Dual Language Immersion Program, are the ideal place for the Hispanic community to acquire the necessary skills for the challenges that professionals face in today’s business world.”

CareerSource South Florida and CareerSource Central Florida provide employment services at Multi-Agency Resource Centers in the Orlando area and Miami International Airport. Several local workforce development boards have held recruiting fairs and workshops to assist Floridians and others impacted by last year’s hurricanes.

For more information, visit employflorida.com.




Florida gov announces $1 million to connect Hurricane Maria Evacuees with Jobs

SAN JUAN – At a town hall in Kissimmee, Fla., Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced a $1 million investment in 12 of the state’s workforce development boards to assist families displaced by Hurricane Maria who are seeking employment.

According to a release by the Florida governor’s office, following Scott’s request to the federal government, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will now provide case management services for families displaced by Maria now in Florida; “and
at the Governor’s direction, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) today sent letters to local housing authority officials and community leaders to identify local and federal resources so there is better coordination in the joint local, state and federal response to housing needs for Puerto Rican families in Florida.”

“To date, the CareerSource Florida network helped more than 7,600 Puerto Ricans find jobs in Florida and this investment will connect even more individuals with great jobs,” Scott said.

Florida governor speaks with FEMA on recovery for Puerto Rico

Rep. David Santiago is quoted in the release saying, “With over 254,000 job openings across the state, Florida is full of opportunities for evacuees to find a job to help support their families.”

The funds are designated for employment services to assist evacuees in the five counties served by CareerSource Central Florida: Orange, Osceola, Lake, Sumter and Seminole counties. CareerSource’s North Central Florida, Citrus Levy Marion, Flagler Volusia, Brevard, Tampa Bay, Pinellas, Research Coast, Palm Beach County, Broward, South Florida and Southwest Florida also received funds to provide career assistance to evacuees.

The nonprofit professional placement network says more than 7,600 people displaced by Maria have sought its services, “primarily in the Orlando area, Miami and Fort Lauderdale.”

The types of services for individuals displaced by Maria that will be provided by the 12 local workforce development boards through this additional funding may include some or all of the following, according to Friday’s release:

  • Individual career consulting services
  • The creation of a Specialized Job Development Team
  • Extended hours at our Career Services Centers
  • Increase access to English for Speakers of Other Language services
  • Hiring events
  • Increased partnerships with community-based organizations
  • Surveys to assess employment needs
  • Social media and/or direct email and/or texting and/or paid outreach



Florida governor speaks with FEMA on recovery for Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN – Florida Gov. Rick Scott spoke Thursday with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long regarding the agency’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program and “the importance of continued communication between federal, state and local partners as families continue to recover from Hurricane Maria,” according to a release from his office.

Following a decision by Puerto Rican officials working with FEMA, the statement reads, the Florida Division of Emergency Management (DEM) was notified that enrollment in the federal TSA program will be limited to individuals whose homes in Puerto Rico have not yet been determined by FEMA to be restored to “safe and livable conditions and have power.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, left, listens to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló during a press conference on Sept. 28, 2017, in Puerto Rico. (CB photo)

The  release cites Scott as saying: “We have worked non-stop to ensure families from Puerto Rico coming to Florida are offered every available state resource and the assistance they need to get back on their feet following Hurricane Maria. Our top priority is to ensure that every family displaced by Hurricane Maria gets the resources they need and that federal, state and local partners continue to work together to ensure a full recovery for these individuals.

“During my call with Administrator Long, we discussed the importance of ongoing federal, state and local support in the delivery of services to Puerto Rican families. I expressed to them the importance of making sure that all families from Puerto Rico in Florida know exactly what federal resources are available to them. I also asked FEMA what federal resources were available to help families return to Puerto Rico once it has been determined it is safe for them to do so. Florida is the most welcoming state in the nation and we invite every family from Puerto Rico to visit our Disaster Recovery Centers to receive information and assistance.”

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Florida joins other states in ending ‘tampon tax’

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida will eliminate taxes charged on tampons under a measure signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott on Thursday approved a bill that would make feminine hygiene products such as tampons and menstrual pads tax-exempt starting next January.

Florida is joining 13 other states and the District of Columbia that exempt taxes on the sale of feminine hygiene products or have enacted laws to exempt these products in the future.

Advocates for the change say these items are a necessity for women and should be considered a “common household remedy.”

The tax exemption was included in a $180 million tax cut package passed by the Florida Legislature. Floridians are expected to save an estimated $11 million a year with the elimination of the tax on feminine hygiene products.




Florida Governor Threatens Ports that do Business with Cuba

Florida Governor Rick Scott makes an introductory statement before the start of the Rick ScottÕs Economic Growth Summit held at the DisneyÕs Yacht and Beach Club Convention Center on June 2, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. Many of the leading Republican presidential candidates are scheduled to speak during the event.  (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Rick Scott is threatening that Florida ports could lose state money if they do business with Cuba.

Scott said Wednesday via Twitter that he will propose a budget that restricts state money for ports that trade with the communist island. He said he was disappointed some Florida ports would enter into agreements with Cuba.

The threat came after news reports of the first legal import from Cuba in more than 50 years arriving at a Fort Lauderdale port, and that Cuban port officials plan to meet with Palm Beach County port officials.

It was not immediately clear what impact Scott’s statement would have on Cuban imports coming through Florida. Trade with Cuba was banned for decades, but limited trade recently was opened by former President Barack Obama’s executive order.