The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Highlights Major Milestones in 2022, Leads State’s Economic Mission Under Governor Ron DeSantis’ Decisive Leadership

Dec 27, 2022

Florida’s Economy Outpaces the Nation in 2022, Makes Strides to Become Top-Performing Economy

Tallahassee, Fla. – Today, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s (DEO) Secretary Dane Eagle highlights major milestones accomplished in 2022 under the leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis.

DEO has championed the Governor’s economic development vision through continuous communication with its statewide and local economic development partners, active outreach to Florida’s business community, and collaboration with other state agencies, such as the REACH Office, CareerSource Florida, the Florida Department of Education (DOE), the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT), Enterprise Florida (EFI), Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC), Space Florida, and VISIT FLORIDA, and the State University System Board of Governors (BOG).
DEO has championed the Governor’s economic development vision through continuous communication with its statewide and local economic development partners, active outreach to Florida’s business community, and collaboration with other state agencies, such as the REACH Office, CareerSource Florida, the Florida Department of Education (DOE), the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT), Enterprise Florida (EFI), Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC), Space Florida, and VISIT FLORIDA, and the State University System Board of Governors (BOG).

Under Governor DeSantis’ bold leadership, DEO spearheads the state’s efforts to cultivate business growth, invest in Floridians, support development in Florida communities, enhance workforce development, and support Florida’s heroes.

“2022 brought many milestones for DEO and for Florida’s economy. As a result of Florida’s Freedom First policies and Governor DeSantis’ bold vision, Florida saw its second lowest unemployment rate in state recorded history and reached record levels of job creation and budget reserves. Governor DeSantis’ decisive leadership and smart, strategic investments prepared Florida’s economy to face the national economic conditions, inflation, and the catastrophic impacts of Hurricane Ian,” said Secretary Dane Eagle of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity .  “This year, DEO worked to quarterback the alignment of and investment in workforce development and major infrastructure investments in Florida’s communities and businesses, such as grants for rural counties and small cities and expanding broadband Internet service to underserved areas. DEO was also honored to support Governor DeSantis’ major first responder, law enforcement, and veteran initiatives to recognize and reward our state’s heroes. I am grateful for all that DEO and our workforce partners accomplished this year, and I know that under the Governor’s leadership, we will continue to empower Florida’s economy, citizens, businesses, communities, and visitors to seize new opportunities in 2023.”

Throughout 2022, DEO has directly impacted the lives of more than 3.97 million individuals, including nearly 10,000 veterans, by providing meaningful assistance and resources to help them recover from economic hardship and create generational growth.

As other states continue to face economic hardship due to the national economic climate, Florida was well prepared to continue moving forward and create opportunities for Floridians. Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, Florida saw a record budget surplus in 2022, with more than $20 billion in reserves to ensure Florida’s economic resilience.

In October, Florida surpassed pre-pandemic employment levels in all nine major private sector industries and created jobs for the thirtieth consecutive month.

In November, Florida’s unemployment rate dropped to 2.6 percent — the lowest among the nation’s top ten largest states and 1.1 percent lower than the nation’s. November marks two consecutive years (24 straight months) that Florida’s unemployment rate has remained below the nation’s. Florida also continued to exceed the national job growth rate for the 20th consecutive month in November 2022. Florida’s private sector employment increased by 28,100 jobs (+0.3 percent) over the month in November 2022 and total private sector employment increased by 420,700 jobs (+5.2 percent) over the year in November 2022. Florida employers have added jobs for 31 consecutive months in November 2022.

In November 2022, Florida’s labor force grew by 7,000 (+0.1 percent), while the national labor force declined by 0.1 percent over the month. Florida’s labor force grew by 352,000, or 3.4 percent, over the year in November 2022, more than double the national labor force growth rate of 1.5 percent over the same time period. In November 2022, Florida’s labor force participation rate was 59.5 percent, down 0.1 percent over the month, but up 1.0 percent over the year. The leisure and hospitality sector gained the most jobs among all major industries — a great sign for an industry that is often the most reactive to challenges like hurricanes — adding 9,600 jobs (+0.7 percent) over the month, followed by education and health services adding 6,200 jobs (+0.4 percent) and construction adding 5,400 jobs (+0.9 percent).

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity will continue to support this economic momentum by prioritizing strategic investments in building a diversified economy, promoting programs that foster community and economic development, and create opportunities for Florida’s job seekers, including veterans, individuals with unique abilities, recipients of government assistance, and other Floridians with barriers to employment. DEO will continue to invest in programs that help employers find, develop, and retain qualified workforce talent. DEO will also continue to distribute disaster recovery and mitigation funds to support the state’s long-term recovery efforts to assist Florida job seekers, businesses, and communities that were impacted by recent disasters.

DEO is proud to highlight the following achievements, programs, and successes throughout 2022.

Championing Growth and Development in Florida Communities

In 2022, DEO took strides to bring Florida’s economic vision to life through smart, strategic investments in Florida communities that have fueled economic diversification and resilience and created a wealth of opportunities for Floridians in communities of all sizes, helping them secure generational growth.

The Florida Job Growth Grant Fund is an economic development program designed to promote public infrastructure and workforce training across the state. This year, more than $66 million has been awarded to 22 communities and educational institutions for this purpose, which is projected to create more than 19,000 jobs and training opportunities for Floridians over the next 10 years.

In addition to the JGGF, DEO issued or managed 326 contracts, agreements, or Memorandums of Understanding worth more than $133.4 million dollars to facilitate workforce development initiatives.

In coordination with the REACH Office and workforce partner agencies, DEO also led the FL WINS project development – a a strategic alignment and coordination of education and workforce initiatives to provide Floridians with broader access to education and training options, labor market information, career planning tools, workforce training, and education support. DEO and partner agencies made significant progress on the FL WINS Program in 2022, including a feasibility study to improve coordination among workforce partners and the hiring of vendors further the state’s system integration efforts.

In 2022, the Rural Infrastructure Fund (RIF) awarded more than $13 million to 27 rural communities in Florida to help facilitate the planning, preparing, and financing of infrastructure projects in rural communities that encourage job creation, capital investment, and the strengthening and diversification of rural economies.

  • Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG)

In 2022, more than $135 million in CDBG funding has been awarded through the CDBG-CV and CDBG-Small Cities programs to improve infrastructure, housing, community redevelopment, and job creation.

Florida’s Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) was launched in 2022 to mitigate financial hardships associated with the COVID-19 pandemic by preventing mortgage foreclosures and delinquencies, and utility service disruptions. $540 million has been awarded through Florida’s HAF program to help keep Floridians in their homes, representing assistance to 28,095 Florida homeowners and more than 300 active foreclosures prevented. According to publicly available data, Florida’s HAF program has awarded more in assistance than California, Texas, and New York combined.

Florida’s HAF program quickly became a model for the nation, providing the state’s most vulnerable homeowners with better, faster assistance than any other state. DEO implemented a successful, robust outreach strategy for Florida’s HAF program, deploying boots on the ground to build and strengthen community partnerships in underserved and minority communities. DEO’s efforts included outreach to homeowners who may be eligible for assistance, as well as technical assistance throughout the application process to connect homeowners with additional DEO programs and resources to help them with their unmet housing expense needs.
Since May 1, 2022, 874 outreach events were facilitated through:

  • 414 information-sharing events
  • 300 high-traffic canvassing opportunities. 
  • 123 speaking engagements
  • 25 pop-up registration support events
  • 12 virtual information sessions

The Competitive Florida Partnership helps communities utilize their unique assets and challenges its leaders to set realistic goals to advance their economic development visions. The Partnership establishes a network of vibrant communities and passionate leaders who gain ideas on how to reach their goals through the success and lessons learned from their peers.

In July, $276,000 was awarded by Governor DeSantis to six small and rural communities to establish a partnership with DEO and provide funding assistance to small rural areas to begin the strategic economic development planning process.

Community Planning Technical Assistance grants, administered by DEO, fund innovative planning and development strategies to promote economic diversity while protecting environmentally sensitive areas. In July, more than $1.3 million was awarded by Governor DeSantis to 20 Florida communities and three regional planning councils.

In 2022, DEO Developed and implemented the first phase of Florida’s Economic Investment Map for the DEO Office of Economic Accountability and Transparency. The map shows funding provided by DEO at the county level, providing a breakdown by programs and awards.

  • Comprehensive Plan Amendment Review

DEO coordinates and reviews local comprehensive plan amendments for impacts to important state resources, such as military bases and affordable housing, while providing planning guidance and information to assist local governments achieve their vision for their community, including economic development goals. 

As of December 13, 2022, DEO has reviewed more than 950 comprehensive plan amendments this year while providing more than 1,000 instances of technical assistance to local governments, residents, and business owners in Florida.

Supporting Florida’s Heroes

Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, Florida is a law and order state that values the sacrifices law enforcement officers, military personnel, veterans, and first responders make to keep their communities safe. Throughout 2022, DEO administered dynamic, innovative programs to support these communities and affirm Florida’s commitment to be the most veteran and military-friendly state in the nation.

Coupled with Florida’s law-and-order policies and freedom first budget, the Florida Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Payment Program reinforces Florida’s position as the best state in the nation to be a sworn law enforcement officer, encouraging Floridians to join the law enforcement profession and out-of-state law enforcement professionals to bring their skills to the Sunshine State. The program is part of the strongest law enforcement support initiative in the nation and awards a one-time bonus payment of $5,000, after taxes, to each newly certified officer within the state.

In October Governor DeSantis and Secretary Dane Eagle visited Cape Coral to meet with officers from the Cape Coral Police Department in Lee County in the wake of Hurricane Ian to deliver the very first recruitment bonuses to six newly recruited officers.

To date, more than 600 bonuses have been awarded to newly certified law enforcement officers, reinforcing Florida’s position as the best state in the nation to be a sworn law enforcement officer.

In September, DEO began issuing $1,000 bonuses, after taxes, through the Essential First Responders Recognition Program to sworn law enforcement officers, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), firefighters, and paramedics to recognize their dedicated service.

To date, DEO has issued $106.5 million in recognition payments to more than 80,000 of Florida’s first responders.

The Defense Infrastructure Grant Program supports local infrastructure projects deemed to have an impact on the military value of installations within the state. In July, Governor DeSantis awarded $1.6 million to four communities and organizations through the program.

The Defense Reinvestment Grant Program supports community-based activities that protect existing military installations. In July, Governor DeSantis awarded $800,000 to seven communities through the program.

In November, Governor DeSantis announced $1.5 million to provide transitional housing for Floridians and veterans recovering from substance abuse. Assistance includes relocation payments, rental assistance, new construction, acquisition, and/or rehabilitation of housing facilities. This one-of-a-kind program supports a population of veterans that is not typically served by other housing programs.

  • Annual Veterans Workforce Summit

As the nation’s most veteran-friendly state, Florida’s state agencies and partners offer an abundance of resources and opportunities to help veterans find meaningful employment, support their families, and contribute to their communities. In November, DEO hosted the second annual Veterans Workforce Summit in Orlando, which served as the statewide training for the Jobs for Veterans’ State Grant, where Local Workforce Development Board (LWDB) staff trained to support Florida’s 1.5 million veterans, transitioning service members, and eligible spouses as they find and begin meaningful careers.

At the summit, DEO awarded the 2022 Veteran Incentive Award to small, medium, and large LWDBs to recognize their service to the state’s veterans through employment services, program service enhancements, and community partnerships to best assist Florida’s veterans.

Cultivating Growth for Florida Businesses

The State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) offers loans to small businesses for qualified business purposes to help small businesses across the state expand, grow, and provide new opportunities for Floridians to advance Florida’s economy.

Throughout 2022, SSBCI facilitated 10 loans for small businesses totaling $17,573,224 of SSBCI Funds and $ 53,833,801 in Total Private Financing.

In October, the U.S. Treasury approved DEO’s participation in the SSBCI 2.0 program and DEO received its first allocation of $142 million to provide capital access to small businesses throughout the state. DEO is preparing for a soft launch of the program in Florida’s Panhandle counties in January 2023 and a statewide rollout by February 2023.

The Rural Job Tax Credit program offers a tax credit for eligible businesses to create new jobs located within one of 36 designated Qualified Rural Areas. Credits range from $1,000 to $1,500 per qualified employee and can be taken against either Florida corporate income tax or Florida sales and use tax.

In 2022, two applications were approved for $123,000 in tax credits.

The Urban High-Crime Area Job Tax Credit program offers a tax credit for eligible businesses to create new jobs located within one of 13 designated urban high-crime areas
In 2022, five applications were approved for $100,500 in tax credits.

  • Capital Investment Tax Credit

The Capital Investment Tax Credit program is used to attract and grow capital-intensive industries in Florida.
Five applications were approved in 2022. Combined, these projects are projected to make more than $750 million in Florida capital investment.

  • Brownfield Redevelopment Bonus Refund

The Brownfield Redevelopment Bonus Refund program is designed to encourage redevelopment and job creation within designated brownfield sites, where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by actual or perceived environmental contamination.

In 2022, DEO executed two agreements through the program. Combined, these projects have committed to creating 600 new-to-Florida jobs and making at least $4 million in capital investment.

  • Business Compliance and Accountability

For the 141 grant and tax refund projects that were paid in calendar year 2022, DEO’s Bureau of Compliance and Accountability confirmed 6,157 new jobs were created.

Eligible production companies in Florida receive a sales-and-use tax exemption on certain production related purchases in Florida.

During fiscal year (FY) 2021-2022, DEO’s Office of Film and Entertainment approved 1,217 applications for the Entertainment Industry Sales Tax Exemption program.  Those applicants spent an estimated $1.47B in the state and employed more than 40,000 Floridians during the year.

In FY 2021-2022, DEO assisted 2,132 Florida productions, 1,788 of which resulted in business and employment in Florida.

  • SEUS Japan

In November, Florida hosted the 44th annual joint meeting of the Southeast United States - Japan Association (SEUS Japan) to highlight Florida and the Southeast delegation’s unparalleled partnership with Japan and its positive impact on economic development and innovation. The meeting featured more than 70 representatives from Japan and 240 representatives from Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina, with more than 100 representatives from Florida alone. 

Building the Future of Broadband in Florida

The Florida Office of Broadband , housed within DEO’s Division of Community Development, was established in July 2020 to increase the availability and effectiveness of broadband internet throughout the state, creating a connected economy— one that yields a more robust workforce, enhanced educational opportunities, and healthier Floridians. In 2022, the Department began its work to award and maximize more than $400 million for broadband expansion.

Amendments to Florida Statutes allowed DEO to access federal grant dollars and assist communities with the expansion of broadband services, as well as provide directives for broadband mapping and the Broadband Opportunity Program.

In May, the Office of Broadband formally initiated rulemaking. Three regional rulemaking workshops were held to provide an opportunity for public comments and questions on the Office’s rulemaking.

In June, the Office of Broadband partnered with the University of Florida Public Utilities Research Center to develop a statewide broadband study and Florida Strategic Plan for Broadband.

In June, the Faster Florida Broadband Map was launched to provide ArcGIS capabilities, allowing the user to layer speed test data with congressional and legislative districts, environmentally sensitive areas, and anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals, colleges and universities, and libraries.

In June, DEO launched the “Faster Florida” statewide broadband Internet speed test campaign to assess the need for broadband Internet service expansion throughout the state.

In October and November, the Office of Broadband hosted two Technical Assistance Webinars to prepare for the launch of the Broadband Opportunity Program.  

In November, The U.S. Department of Treasury awarded more than $247 million to the state of Florida to expand broadband infrastructure through the Capital Projects Fund.  The program will launch in Spring 2023.

In November, the application window for the Broadband Opportunity Program opened. The application window closed on December 9, 2022. DEO received 106 unique applications, requesting more than $277 million in funding and leveraging more than $444 million in existing funding and resources. Awards are expected to be made through the program in early 2023.

On November 29, 2022, the NTIA approved the Office of Broadband’s proposal of $5M for the BEAD Initial Planning Grant. 

Disaster Response and Recovery
In 2022, DEO assisted Florida residents impacted by Hurricanes Ian, Michael, Irma, Hermine, and Matthew, and increased communities’ resilience to future storms.

As a result of Governor DeSantis’ decisive leadership, Florida is home to a skilled, competitive workforce and a resilient economy. The work done at Governor DeSantis’ direction to keep Florida’s economy strong and cut red tape empowered DEO and its partners to help Floridians and Florida businesses with the resources they need to get back on their feet and recover from impacts caused by Hurricane Ian as quickly as possible.

Before, during, and after the landfall of Hurricane Ian, DEO led the state’s business recovery efforts through Florida Emergency Support Function (ESF) 18, activating the state’s private sector hotline and working alongside state and national private sector partners to help Floridians and their businesses prepare for and respond to the impacts of Hurricane Ian.

Along with its partners, DEO deployed 90 team members and seven mobile units, assisting in the setup and staffing of eight Disaster Recovery Centers to assist Floridians and businesses impacted by the storm.

In October, Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) was made available to Florida businesses and residents in FEMA disaster-declared counties whose employment or self-employment was lost or interrupted as a direct result of Hurricane Ian. To date, DEO has approved more than 12,200 DUA claims.

DEO also activated the Emergency Bridge Loan Program to help businesses get back on their feet and retain their employees as they rebuild and recover following the storm. Since activation, the program has loaned nearly $34 million to assist more than 800 small businesses.

This year, Governor DeSantis reaffirmed Florida’s commitment Hurricane Michael recovery through more than $222 million awarded to impacted communities through DEO’s Rebuild Florida program.

As of December 12, 2022, the Hurricane Michael Rebuild Florida Housing Repair and Replacement Program has awarded 986 homeowners impacted by Hurricane Michael. The program has also returned 594 homeowners to decent, safe, and sanitary homes, and there are 392 additional projects currently underway.

In 2022, Governor DeSantis announced a total of $175 million in funding across 17 awards to Florida communities impacted by Hurricane Irma through the Rebuild Florida Mitigation General Infrastructure Program.

As of December 12, 2022, the Hurricane Irma Housing Repair and Replacement Program has awarded 4,093 homeowners impacted by Hurricane Irma. The program has also returned 2,777 homeowners to decent, safe, and sanitary homes, and there are 1,106 additional projects currently underway.

DEO’s State of Florida Action Plan for Disaster Recovery was approved by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on August 5, 2022. The grant agreement with HUD was fully executed on October 28, 2022, and DEO began finalizing program launch plans for Hurricane Sally recovery.

In 2022, Governor DeSantis announced a total of $217 million in funding across 35 awards to Florida communities impacted by 2016, 2017, and 2018 storms. These awards will help fund the construction, repair, and hardening of infrastructure in storm-impacted areas to mitigate future losses and damages. Mitigation programs include the Critical Facility Hardening Program, General Planning Support Program and the General Infrastructure Program.

Investing in Prosperity for Floridians

In 2022, DEO has processed 235,130 Reemployment claims and paid $321,374,176, representing direct assistance to more than 171,864 Floridians.

By dramatically increasing efforts to reduce Reemployment Assistance fraud, DEO effectively reduced suspected fraud by 57% in 2022 and prevented nearly $23.2 BILIO in Reemployment Assistance fraud.

DEO has also continued to improve the Reemployment Assistance Help Center’s capacity by expanding assistance with both Internal and External Customers. Of the 2,549,594 cases received by DEO in 2022, 2,494,579 have been resolved.

During the 2022 calendar year, DEO made significant strides to modernize the Reemployment Assistance Claims and Benefits Information System and immediately improve performance and usability of the Reemployment Assistance Claims and Benefits Information System.

In 2022:

  • Several major software upgrades were implemented.
  • 20 federally mandated reports were developed, validated, and are now submitted directly to the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • Contracts were executed for overall System integration and upgrades.
  • Several procurements were developed and issued.
  • Reemployment Assistance business process evaluation and reengineering that were completed to increase efficiency.
  • A Department Data Catalog and Data Dictionary were developed for more efficient data sharing.
  • A new information technology Development Operations tool was launched to streamline enhancements.

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federally funded program that helps income-qualified families with home heating and cooling costs. DEO administers LIHEAP and allocates funding directly to a network of community action agencies located throughout the state of Florida.

In Fiscal Year 2022, more than $115 million in assistance has been provided to approximately 175,000 eligible Floridian households to assist with home energy needs and costs.

The Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) program provides a variety of services designed at the local level to meet specific community needs. These funds provide emergency financial assistance for education, nutrition, housing, health care, and employment. The funds are also used to provide long-term strategies for the state's disadvantaged citizens and low-income communities to achieve higher levels of self-sufficiency.

In 2022, Florida’s Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) program provided $28 million in assistance to 106,302 households with needed services aimed to improve their quality of life and achieve higher levels of self-sufficiency.

Florida has used Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) Disaster Relief Supplemental Funds to reinforce the existing social services infrastructure to continue to support Hurricane Michael survivors’ ongoing personal recovery efforts. These two agencies have assisted 300 families with over 6,000 days of temporary housing while their houses were being rebuilt or repaired.

DEO administers the state of Florida’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) to weatherize homes, creating energy efficient homes and reducing costs. In 2022, 480 homes were weatherized, assisting a total of 1,153 residents.

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