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  • Florida Chamber's Weekly COVID-19 Update: Feb. 4, 2021

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    February 04, 2021
    Facts Not Fear
     
     
    COVID-19 Weekly Update: February 4, 2021
     
     
     
     
     
    DAYS SINCE 1st CONFIRMED CASE OF COVID-19 IN FLORIDA:
    339
     
    DAYS SINCE 1st VACCINE IN FLORIDA:
    53
     
     
     
    This Week's Message from Chamber President & CEO Mark Wilson:
     
     
     
     
     
     
    It is Day 53 since Florida's first vaccine was administered and 8% of Floridians have received their first dose - that's just over 1.7 million people including many frontline workers and Floridians 65 and older. You can view the Florida Department of Health's latest vaccine report by county here. A few weeks into the new year, and following several weeks of an upward trend in cases as a result of the holidays, the average daily number of new cases in Florida is slightly ticking down. The vaccine rollout continues with Governor DeSantis and Florida leadership's commitment to protect Florida's most vulnerable citizens and getting the vaccine to our seniors. Earlier this week Governor DeSantis spoke from The Villages to provide an update on vaccine distribution throughout the state, and the Lady Lake Area Chamber of Commerce and several of their members participated in the press conference showing the business community's commitment to protecting our most vulnerable citizens while reopening our economy safe and smart. We have been working with the local chambers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and they have been instrumental in getting information to the community as we work to move Florida forward #Chamberstrong. I’d also like to thank the approximately 100 local chambers who are already part of our Chamber COVID Liability Protection Coalition. If your local chamber is on this list please thank them for helping us protect you from frivolous COVID liability lawsuits. If you are a local chamber that is interested in participating in future opportunities to join Florida's leadership in your community, please reach out to Andrew Wiggins at awiggins@flchamber.com and we will work with you to make that happen.
     
    There are currently two more vaccines that have shown promise in recent weeks made by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca that are making headway with results in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and preventing infection. In still less than a year's time, the spirit of free enterprise has had companies rising to the occasion with multiple vaccines hitting the market. Free enterprise has always been what makes America work, and yet again, it is what is going to help our country pull through and get our economy back so all people of this country can prosper.
     
    Thanks to Florida's leadership and their common sense approach to reopening safe and smart, Florida has been able to get our economy back quicker than most while many states are still facing shutdowns and restrictions that are making it nearly impossible for businesses to thrive. Last week, Florida Chamber Chief Economist Dr. Jerry Parrish forecasted that in 2021, Florida will recover and create 280,000 jobs. If you missed our 2021 Economic Outlook and Solutions Summit last week, I highly encourage you to purchase a digital pass so you can share all of the Florida-specific content with your management teams. No matter your industry, there is extremely valuable insight you won't get anywhere else. For example, Bill Yeargin, President & CEO of Correct Craft - and member of the Florida Chamber Board of Directors - gave an incredible presentation on the future of manufacturing in Florida that you won't want to miss. Digital passes will be distributed next week so sign up for yours today.
     
    COVID-19 liability protections have continued to receive a lot of attention by the legislature in advance of the legislative session and thank you to everyone who has reached out to their legislators to urge their support. Yesterday, the House heard HB 7 by Representative Lawrence McClure in the House Pandemics and Public Emergencies Committee and the bill passed on a party line vote, 11-6. As you know, the bill affords protections to businesses that are substantially following governmental guidelines and the Florida Chamber has spoken about the importance of bringing certainty to business owners.
     
    As expected, the Senate has filed the health care component of COVID-19 liability protections, SB 74 by Senator Jeff Brandes. The Florida Chamber is soliciting health care member’s feedback on the bill. For a copy or to provide feedback, contact Carolyn Johnson at cjohnson@flchamber.com or 850-521-1235.
     
    COVID liability protections for businesses who have acted responsibly is a major part of fully relaunching our economy, and if Florida is going to become the 10th largest economy in the world by 2030, there are also several additional issues to focus on. In preparation for the 2021 Florida Legislative Session, this week we released our annual Where We Stand, the Florida Chamber's jobs and competitiveness agenda. You can view the entire issue digitally or download a pdf copy here.
     
     
    Please find the latest cumulative COVID-19 numbers below:
     
     
     
     
    Florida Chamber Foundation Chief Economist Dr. Jerry Parrish and our research team continue to analyze COVID-19 data and report on it daily at TheFloridaScorecard.org. As cases vary regionally, we also offer a breakdown of data by county so you can know how COVID-19 is trending in your area.
     
     
    The Florida Chamber Jobs & Competitiveness Agenda
     
     
    Where We Stand 2021
     
    The Florida Chamber of Commerce has released its 2021 jobs and competitiveness agenda outlining key issues to keep Florida moving forward.
     
    View and Download
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Legislative Updates
     
     
    Governor Releases “Florida Leads” Budget Proposal for FY 21-22
     
    Last Thursday, the Governor released his $96.6 billion proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year and throughout this week, the House and Senate have held hearings to take a deeper dive into his budget proposal. The Florida Chamber has long advocated for economic development and tourism funding and for appropriate levels of affordable housing funding. Key highlights of the Governor’s budget include:
     
    • $9 million for the Quick Response Training program
    •  $50 million for the Job Growth Grant Fund
    • $21 million for Enterprise Florida operations, including $5 million to market Florida’s business brand
    • $50 million for VISIT FLORIDA
    • $18.5 million for Space Florida programs
    • $296.6 million for the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP)
    • $50 million for a Governor’s “Road Fund” for Economic Development
    • $9.47 billion for the state transportation work program
     
    To view the Governor’s budget proposal and other related documents, click here.
     
     
     
     
     
     
    School Choice Legislation Advances in Senate
     
    On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee voted to advance a bill that would help to simplify Florida’s K-12 scholarship programs. Senator Manny Diaz sponsored SB 48 entitled Educational Scholarship Programs. Florida families can currently receive scholarships from 5 separate programs depending on the needs of their child; the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, the Hope Scholarship, the Family Empowerment Scholarship, the McKay Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities and finally the Gardiner Scholarship Program.
     
    SB 48 would merge the McKay and Gardiner Scholarship Programs, creating a new program for students with unique abilities called the McKay-Gardiner Scholarship Program. Students currently in the Florida Tax Credit and the Hope Scholarship programs would be transferred to the Family Empowerment Scholarship. Additionally, the bill would create flexible spending accounts, also known as education savings accounts (ESA) and would establish a common accountability metric across all scholarship programs.
     
    The Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2030 Blueprint set the bold goals that by 2030, 100% of students entering 3rd and 8th grades read and perform mathematics at grade level. Senator Diaz’s bill will help to achieve that goal by allowing Florida parents to decide the best educational pathway for their child.
     
    A full version of the bill text can be found here SB 48. If you have any further questions or comments, please contact Matthew Choy at mchoy@flchamber.com or at 850-521-1279.
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Property Insurance Market Stabilization Bill Passes First Senate Committee
     
    The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee yesterday voted to advance SB 76, a bill filed by Senator Jim Boyd that will help stabilize the property insurance market by reducing the cost of litigation and addressing areas ripe for questionable claims. 
     
    Specifically, SB 76 returns the use of a contingency risk multiplier to only rare and unusual circumstances when calculating attorney fees in property insurance claims, bringing Florida’s contingency risk multiplier back to the federal standard. The bill also cracks down on “free roofs” by allowing insurance policy contracts to allow for reimbursement at actual cash value on the roof after 10 years, instead of replacement cost value. Additionally, SB 76 allows for a two-year statute of limitations on all insurance claims, and also creates a balanced attorney fee structure to reduce gamesmanship for property insurance claims. 
     
    The bill passed the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee with bipartisan support on a 9-3 vote and has two committee hearings remaining in the Senate. Representative Bob Rommel has filed a similar bill on this subject in the House, HB 305.
     
    The Florida Chamber will continue to monitor this issue and provide updates as needed. If this legislation is important to you, please contact Carolyn Johnson at cjohnson@flchamber.com or at 850-521-1235 to share your story.
     
     
    Florida Recovery Update
     
     
    Governor Ron DeSantis Announces More than $92 Million Available to Local Governments Through the Community Development Block Grant – Coronavirus Relief Program
     
    Yesterday, Governor Ron DeSantis announced local governments now have the opportunity to apply for the Community Development Block Grant – Coronavirus (CDBG-CV) Relief Program. The CDBG-CV program is designed to help local governments prepare, prevent, and respond to the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. CDBG-CV funds are allocated through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Program activities must be critical to the area and primarily benefit of low- and moderate-income residents. READ MORE>
     
     
     
     
     
    Safety News and Trainings Available
     
     
    Stronger workplace guidelines from OSHA regarding COVID-19
     
    OSHA has published stronger guidelines on mitigating and preventing the spread of the Coronavirus in the workplace following President Biden’s executive order signed last week. Not including the health care industry, these new guidelines are intended to inform most employers and workers and to help them identify possible hazards and exposure risk of contracting COVID-19.
     
    These new guideless identify several essential elements employers should be adding to their COVID-19 prevention programs, such as hazard assessments, identification of control measure to prevent the spread of the virus, encourage and not punishing employees for remaining home when they feel sick or are displaying symptoms, implementation of anti-retaliation programs for employees who voice COVID-19 related concerns, and ensure that employers are clearly communicating policies and procedures in English and other languages for non-English-speaking workers.
     
    OSHA’s new stronger guidelines also reinforced the already established norms of social distancing, mask-wearing, or face covering, as well as keeping away personnel that has been infected or has potentially been infected from the workplace.
     
    It is important to remember that these newly established guidelines are not a new standard or regulation, and they do not form an obligation to employers. These guidelines are recommendations and are advisory in nature; Still, they do describe existing mandatory safety and health standards.
     
     
    If your business is in need of safety training - including COVID-19 training - we're here to help. For more information on keeping your workers safe, visit flchambersafety.com or contact Diego Sanchez, Senior Safety Manager at dsanchez@flchamber.com
     
     
    Click here to visit the Florida Chamber Safety Council website for COVID resources, safety trainings and more!
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Upcoming Florida Chamber Safety Council Events:
     
     
    Register for Training
     
    Register for Workshop
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Free Enterprise in Action
     
     
    Florida Chamber Foundation Trustee, Walmart, and Sam's Club pharmacies in Florida to receive COVID vaccine next week
     
    Florida Walmarts and Sam's Clubs will begin accepting and administering federal allocations of COVID-19 vaccines next week through their pharmacies, according to a Walmart press release Tuesday. The vaccines will be available at these pharmacies thanks to the U.S. Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, a collaboration between the federal government, states and territories, and 21 national pharmacy partners and independent pharmacy networks to increase access to COVID-19 vaccination across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. READ MORE>
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Liability protections, online sales tax top Florida Chamber priority list
     
    The Florida Chamber of Commerce will spend the 2021 Legislative Session advocating for COVID-19 liability protections and online sales tax reform as well as “key investments” to boost the economy over the long-term. The Chamber detailed its 2021 priority list Tuesday and said passing liability protections, in particular, was imperative for the state’s economic recovery.
     
     READ MORE>
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Business leaders lobby lawmakers to restore Florida’s target industry tax refund
     
    During the Florida Chamber Foundation's 2021 Economic Outlook & Jobs Solution Summit, business leaders said lawmakers must restore a lapsed performance-based tax refund program to accelerate a post-pandemic recovery. The three-hour virtual forum featured 15 speakers and panel discussions on post-pandemic recovery and the Chamber’s Florida 2030 Blueprint, which outlines initiatives to grow Florida's economy from 17th to 10th largest in the world by 2030.
     
    READ MORE>
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Florida Chamber Poll: Floridians support COVID-19 liability protections for businesses
     
    A recent statewide poll released by the Florida Chamber shows that Florida voters are in favor of protections for businesses that followed public health protocols and guidelines, with 74 percent of the participants supporting legislation to shield businesses from frivolous lawsuits. When extended to include doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes, support for liability protections increased to 78 percent.
     
    READ MORE>
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Thank you for your continued support as we work to unite Florida's businesses for good. If there is anything you need from your dedicated Chamber Staff, or have questions at any time, I invite you to email me directly at mwilson@flchamber.com.
     
    My best,
     
    Mark Wilson
    President & CEO
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Florida Chamber of Commerce www.FloridaChamber.com/Coronavirus
     
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