Florida benefits from billions in stimulus funding says advisor to Crist
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06/11/09 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:

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Beginning this summer, Floridians will see “dirt moving” on transportation projects funded by billions of federal stimulus dollars. That’s according to Don Winstead, who is special advisor to Florida Governor Charlie Crist for the federal economic recovery act. He spoke to about fifty business owners at the Tampa Bay Area Business Expo this morning at the Tampa Convention Center.

Earlier this year, Congress passed, and President Barack Obama signed, the $787 billion American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. On Thursday morning, Don Winstead held up the thick book that is the conference report and text of this stimulus bill and joked that it represented about a billion dollars a page. He says billions are headed to Florida.

“Well the state overall, if you combine the money that will flow through the state budget, plus money that will go directly to individuals, or directly to cities and counties, our latest estimate is about $15.3 billion over about a three-year period. About $11 billion of that will flow through the state budget. So there’s a significant infusion of money coming to Florida.”

Floridians could also benefit in other ways. Eighty-five billion dollars in competitive grants are available nationwide. In addition, Winstead points out that the tax reductions in the federal economic recovery act will help Florida residents.

“We estimate the tax consequences for people in Florida from the tax code changes will be about $9.85 billion. So overall, we’re close to $25 billion in terms of impact in the state of Florida.”

Winstead still serves as deputy secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families, even though in March he was appointed by Governor Crist to be his special advisor in the Office of Economic Recovery. “There is no expenditure that is made that has a more powerful effect on the economy than investments in infrastructure,” according to Winstead.

On Wednesday, the governor met with his working group, including agency heads, for an update on stimulus efforts. Winstead says that state Commissioner of Education Eric Smith reported good news about Florida’s use of 1.36 billion federal stimulus dollars directed toward the state’s schools.

At that meeting, Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos reported to the governor that about 75 percent of their stimulus dollars have already been assigned to projects.

But the Congressional Budget Office reports that as of May 22nd, only 10 percent of money has been outlaid.

Carmen Bracamonte was in the audience during Don Winstead’s speech. Bracamonte is CEO of a healthcare and education company based in Wesley Chapel, but she is worried that stimulus money is not reaching people who need it in the health care field. “We are not seeing this money coming in.”

Business owners who attended the presentation by Florida’s stimulus advisor were eager to hear about how they could take advantage of federal stimulus funding coming to the state. Bernard Brown is with a company involved in sports training. “Definitely, of course, I would love to get some of the grant money to help promote my business and to grow.”

Leigh Haller is involved in several product design businesses. “We’re in technology, so we’re looking for grant money.”

Carole Dale is an owner of a company that maintains lawns and does building repairs. "We're hoping to see some of the local municipalities get some of the stimulus money."

Lynn Schultz is program coordinator for Hillsborough County’s small business information center. She hopes the Tampa Bay Area Business Expo will be an annual event. In addition to stimulus information provided to small business owners by Don Winstead, the expo contained workshops on recovery funds and other resources that would help small businesses, Schultz says.

The state and federal governments have websites devoted to information about the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 and how federal stimulus funding is allocated and spent.

Florida Office of Economic Recovery – FlaRecovery.com

Recovery.gov

Federal grants – grants.gov

MyFloridaMarketplace

Federal Business Opportunities - FedBizOps

Hillsborough County’s Small Business Information Center

CBO report on stimulus outlays

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