TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis met with first responders in Surfside, and presented Florida Task Force 1 and 2 members with $1,000 bonus checks, a portion of the bonuses promised to teachers and first responders earlier this year and appropriated from funds in the state budget.
Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez, DEO Secretary Dane Eagle and the governor’s wife and daughter joined him at the Grand Beach Hotel Surfside to present the checks to the search and rescue team members who responded to the Surfside tragedy.
“We wanted to do something to thank our first responders,” DeSantis said. “Fire, law enforcement, EMTs who put it on the line for the rest of us, and particularly as we’ve seen some like law enforcement not being treated well, we wanted to show Florida stands with you.”
The event was mainly a chance for the Governor, the Lt. Governor, and Sec. Eagle to thank Florida’s search and rescue teams for their efforts during the pandemic, and then in Surfside, and provide the bonus checks allocated in this year’s state budget to them, in-person.
DeSantis said that giving the checks was “the right thing to do,” especially after the tragedy of Champlain Towers South in Surfside.
“We saw here in Surfside, towards the end of June, the Tragic Collapse of Champlain Towers South, and how the folks in this room were there from the beginning, saving lives, helping, and then of course looking through all of that terrible wreckage to try to find people in the many, many days after,” DeSantis said.
The governor said the tragedy was agonizing, and a gut punch to the state’s communities as first responders worked to stand with the families of those lost in the collapse. The governor said those lost in Surside were “a remarkable group of people” and some of the best families.
“It hurts, it’s something that’s going to leave a mark in this community for a long time,” DeSantis said.
In addition to thanking first responders, First Lady Casey DeSantis drew attention to the mental toll that first responders face through the work they do, saying she was working to find ways to get the state’s first responders more of the help they need. Ms. DeSantis said the state was exploring options involving federal block grants, as well as finding funding options alongside the Department of Children and Families.
“We are working very hard with the Department of Children and Families, who are also working with our legislative partners and our federal partners to see what funds are available and to see if there are avenues to be able to devote some of those federal block grants, to go towards mental health and emotional help for our first responders,” said Ms. DeSantis.