• Message from Congressman Matt Gaetz - 3/21/2020

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    March 21, 2020

    Hello, Friends —

    This week, as we have adjusted to the new challenges presented by COVID-19, we have seen America unite to tackle this crisis.

    Together, Congress and President Trump are ensuring that sick Americans get the care they need, and that people whose livelihoods have been harmed by coronavirus will be made whole again. Congress has provided for a temporary increase in the federal share of Medicaid spending to be allocated towards the Coronavirus, and has recently passed H.R. 6201, which was signed by the President into law. H.R. 6201 requires free access to coronavirus testing, ensuring there are no cost barriers to these tests. It also includes $1.2 billion to help cover the costs of testing, including $142 million to directly help our servicemembers and veterans.

    Locally, the Okaloosa County Commissioners voted on Tuesday to close public beaches until further notice. Implementing measures to reduce the spread of the virus will help keep our citizens safe and healthy. 

    For a list of closures in Florida's First Congressional District (current as of 5pm on Friday, March 20), see the bottom of this message.


    For More:

    Okaloosa votes to close its public beaches


    With one of the highest percentages of senior citizens in the nation, Florida has unique medical needs in light of the coronavirus epidemic. Yesterday, joined by many of my colleagues from the Florida delegation, I sent a letter to Vice President Pence, asking him to fulfill the medical requests made by the Florida Division of Emergency Management to combat the spread of COVID-19.

    For More:

    Florida Delegation Urges Mike Pence to Quickly Send Medical Resources, Personnel to Help on Coronavirus



    To keep Florida residents and visitors safe, informed, and aware about the status of the virus, the Florida Department of Health has launched a COVID-19 dashboard that will be updated twice daily. Check this out for the latest COVID-19 information in Florida. I applaud the Florida Department of Health for their quick action and dedication to fighting the Coronavirus.



    Congress is taking an ambitious, proactive approach to combat the Coronavirus threat. Two major Coronavirus relief packages have been passed and signed by President Trump: H.R. 6047, and H.R. 6201. A third is on the way.

    H.R. 6047:

    Small Businesses:

    • H.R. 6047 makes available $1 billion in loan subsidies to help small businesses, and other organizations financially affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
    • This funding will allow the Small Business Administration to provide an estimated $7 billion in loans.

    Testing and Supplies:

    H.R. 6047 included more than $4 billion to make diagnostic tests more broadly available, to support treatments to ease the symptoms of those infected with the virus, and to invest in vaccine development and to procure vaccines when they become available.


    H.R. 6201:

    Small Businesses

    • This bill includes a refundable payroll tax credit to reimburse, dollar-for-dollar, local businesses for paid sick leave and family and medical leave wages paid to employees that are affected by COVID-19. Click here for an explanation of who is eligible and for what amounts.

    Sick Leave

    • This bill requires employers to provide notice of eligibility to employees. The Department of Labor is required to create model notification within 7 days after enactment of the bill.

    Food Security:

    • This bill provides half a billion dollars for WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) to help low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children who lose their jobs or are laid off due to the coronavirus emergency. It also included waivers to allow child and adult care centers to allow those eligible to take their food to go.
    • This bill provides $250 million for the Senior Nutrition program in the Administration for Community Living (ACL) to provide approximately 25 million additional home-delivered and pre-packaged meals to low-income seniors who depend on the Senior Nutrition programs in their communities.


    Paid leave information: CLICK HERE to view a larger-sized PDF.



    In an abundance of caution, my district office and my DC office will both be teleworking for the foreseeable future. Current circumstances are putting a strain on all our staff, and we appreciate your patience during these trying times. Thank you for your understanding.



    Breitbart News — March 19, 2020

    Matt Gaetz: Don’t Assist Chinese-Owned Companies in United States

    “Appearing Wednesday on Fox News Channel’s Hannity, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said the federal government should not provide assistance to Chinese-owned companies in the United States that face financial issues due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.”

    Washington Examiner — March 19, 2020

    Matt Gaetz echoes Tom Cotton: Economic relief should go directly to workers, not companies

    “Rep. Matt Gaetz indicated he agreed with Sen. Tom Cotton that any economic relief from the federal government for people affected by the coronavirus should go directly to workers.”

    Washington Post — March 18, 2020

    Trump’s Coronavirus Plan Includes Industry Bailouts That Republicans Once Opposed

    “Yet it’s not just Democrats who are uneasy about the rush to throw money at the problem. Prominent Republicans such as Sen. Rick Scott and Rep. Matt Gaetz, both of Florida, said they oppose corporate bailouts.”

    Pensacola News Journal — March 16, 2020

    Proposal would extend oil and gas moratorium in eastern Gulf of Mexico to 2032  

    “Locally, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, whose Northwest Florida district includes Eglin Air Force Base, has made the Gulf Test Range his top legislative priority.”

    Breitbart News — March 14, 2020

    Gaetz Slams Dems for Using Coronavirus Threat to ‘Realign, Reorient and Massively Expand’ Entitlements  

    “Friday, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) applauded President Donald Trump’s efforts to rescue the nation from the threats of coronavirus, both on a health level and from an economic standpoint.”



    Wall Street Journal — March 20, 2020

    Communities Mobilize to Help Elderly Weather Coronavirus Crisis

    New York Times — March 20, 2020

    Coronavirus Live Updates: Hospitals on Both Sides of the Atlantic Struggle as Cases Climb

    Townhall — March 19, 2020

    America Gets Another Hostage Back, This Time From the Iranian Regime

    National Review — March 19, 2020

    Coronavirus and China’s Missing Citizen Journalists

    Breitbart – March 19, 2020

    McConnell Introduces Rescue Package With $2400 Checks for Families, $500 For Kids

    Fox News – March 20, 2020

    Dianne Feinstein, 3 Senate colleagues sold off stocks before coronavirus crash: reports


    Escambia County:

    • All schools are closed until further notice.
    • Bars and nightclubs in Escambia County and the City of Pensacola must close for 30 days starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, per an executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis.
    • Restaurants within the county are encouraged to take steps to allow for social distancing and limit potential spread of COVID-19.
    • Escambia County is also following the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to limit groups on the beach to 10 people or fewer, with social distance between individualsSigns will be posted at Pensacola Beach, and the county will be monitoring. Pensacola Beach hoteliers are limiting occupancy to below 50 percent.
    • Escambia County and City of Pensacola have canceled all publicly-permitted, in-person events that consist of 50 people or more effective Monday, March 16, until further notice.
    • West Florida Public Libraries will postpone library events and programming effective Wednesday, March 18, until further notice, based on the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    • All Escambia County Tax Collector offices lobbies are closed effective 8:30 a.m. Thursday, March 19. Employees will continue to assist as many citizens as possible through phone and email. All current appointments are canceled.
    • The Escambia County Property Appraiser's Office will be closed to the public beginning Monday, March 23.Customers will be assisted via email or telephone. All BCC employees entering the building will a security temperature check prior to entering.
    • City of Pensacola is closing all community centers and programs to the public effective Monday, March 16, until further notice. In addition, event rentals with 50 or more participants at city facilities are canceled effective immediately for at least eight weeks, based on a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    • Mayor of Pensacola’s Ordinances:
      • Restaurants in City of Pensacola limits must close on-premises service to customers. Therefore, restaurants must transition to pickup or delivery only starting at 12:01 a.m. Monday, March 23.
        • Applies to restaurants, bars, taverns, pubs, night clubs, banquet halls, cocktail lounges, cabarets, breweries, cafeterias, and any other alcohol and/or food service establishment with seating for more than eight people.
        • The establishments mentioned above must close on-premises service of customers, not including delivery, pickup or takeout services.
        • This order does not apply to restaurants that are ancillary to essential services, including the airport, secure facilities and hospitals. 
        • This order does not apply to grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, and convenience stores.
      • All movie theaters, concert houses, auditoriums, playhouses, bowling alleys, arcades and entertainment venues shall close. 
      • Social visits to all nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult family-care homes, long-term care facilities, and adult group homes are suspended. 
    • ECUA: Based on our commitment to and interest in public health, ECUA is immediately suspending the discontinuation of services for non-payment during the COVID-19 pandemic period. This will apply to all residential and commercial accounts and will be in effect until further notice. As a provider of essential services, ECUA is committed to helping our community cope with the extraordinary demands resulting from this outbreak.
    • Gulf Islands National Seashore: The following are closed in Florida:
    • The Opal Beach Complex
    • The Fort Barrancas Area including the forts and visitor center
    • The Naval Live Oaks Exhibit Area at park headquarters
    • The Fort Pickens Discovery Center and Bookstore


    Santa Rosa County:

    • Libraries: Closed until further notice.
    • The sheriff’s office has suspended fingerprinting services until further notice. The 2020 Public Safety Coordinating Council Meeting scheduled for April 15 has been cancelled.
    • The tax collector’s office is transitioning to online transactions only (or Milton drive thru) for tag renewals (stickers), property tax payments, business tax receipts, parking permit applications/renewals, hunting and fishing licenses, and lost /stolen license plates.
      • Jay office will be closed until further notice beginning Mar. 19.
      • Only Santa Rosa County residents will be served beginning Mar. 19.
      • No driving tests or concealed weapons services until further notice.
      • The tax collector has cancelled all appointments including CDLs (hazmat licenses), concealed weapons applications/renewals, driving tests, etc. until further notice.
      • Many transactions can be completed online at santarosatax.com. Citizens are urged to take advantage of this convenient option. 
    • Clerk of Courts
      • Civil traffic infraction hearings scheduled for this Thursday, March 19th, in Santa Rosa County have been continued to Friday, April 24th, at 1:30 p.m.
      • The Florida Supreme Court has temporarily suspended jury selection proceedings from Mar. 16 - 27. Jurors who are serving on trials that have already commenced should contact the office of the presiding trial judge for instructions.
    • First Judicial Court
      • By order of the Supreme Court of Florida, the First Judicial Circuit will be moving to mission-critical functions only.
      • Civil traffic infraction hearings scheduled for Thurs., Mar. 19 have been continued to Fri., Apr. 24 at 1:30 p.m.
      • All jury trials are officially suspended through Mar. 27 by the Florida Supreme Court.
      • Access to the courthouse and proceedings are limited effective immediately. Only those persons with business before the court, or with agencies within those facilities (Clerk of Court, State Attorney, or Public Defender) may enter the facilities. Only necessary participants are allowed into any hearing (witnesses, attorneys, and parties, essential court staff).
      • Proceedings for which more than 50 people are scheduled to be heard will be held at staggered intervals. Persons with no official business who are not necessary participants are not allowed in the facility. As possible, the Circuit will hold proceedings by video and telephonic appearances.
      • Persons entering court facilities will be allowed one small (no larger than two ounces) bottle of hand sanitizer. As available, each facility will provide sanitizer for public use. Individuals with known symptoms or exposures should make the judges aware prior to any appearance. Any attorney, litigant, or any member of the public having a specific need to be excused or any other request should make the judge aware of the circumstances.
    • School District
      • Students will remain out of school until April 15. Santa Rosa District Schools will be standing up a virtual learning curriculum for all of our students. Additionally, students without internet access will be provided alternate learning avenues to make certain all students are provided a high quality curriculum.
    • City of Gulf Breeze
      • The City of Gulf Breeze declared a local state of emergency.
      • The annual Quarterback Carnival and the Gulf Breeze Arts Festival are cancelled.
      • The Gumbo Fest is rescheduled to Sat., May 2.
      • Spring Fest is still tentatively scheduled for April 18.
    • City of Milton
      • The City of Milton is cancelling all publicly-permitted events scheduled in the next eight weeks.
      • The City of Milton is currently operating at Pandemic Plan Level 3 (monitoring, preparedness and prevention) and will move to the next level as warranted.
      • The city is encouraging electronic transactions, limiting social interactions, disinfecting public surfaces regularly and ensuring accuracy of all disseminated information.
      • Milton Community Center and Milton Event Center are closed until further notice.
      • All city parks are open.
      • The city has cancelled all permitted events exceeding more than 50 people for the next eight weeks and discouraging gatherings of more than ten.
      • The committee of the whole is cancelled for March and a determination will be made on the executive committee meeting in April.
      • Advisory bodies will only meet if necessary.
    • Santa Rosa Chamber
      • All scheduled Chamber meetings and events have been suspended through Monday, April 20.
      • The Business Showcase scheduled for April 30th has been re-scheduled for November 5th (If you are currently registered someone will be contacting you.)
      • The April 18th Glow Run sponsored by Leadership Santa Rosa Alumni will be re-scheduled (date to be announced soon).
    • Escambia River Electric Cooperative
      • Jay Office: The drive-through is open to the public.
      • Walnut Hill Office: The post office mail receptacle area is mail or packages. Postage purchasing and large package drop-off will need to be handled at a full-scale post office facility.
      • Members are encouraged to utilize remote options for electric service. Payments may be made by mail, at www.erec.com, by phone autopay or depository.
      • Services such as opening or closing an electric, water or internet account; making changes to your services; inquiring about your account balance, service orders, etc. can all be handled by email or phone.


    Okaloosa County:

    • Veterans' Services
      • The VA Transportation Network Shut Down effective COB Friday, March 20, 2020 until further notice.
    • Commissioners Vote to Close All Okaloosa County Public Beaches
      • Beaches to Close Saturday
    • Okaloosa County Commissioners Decisions:

    We are following all guidance and Executive Orders issued by the office of Governor Ron DeSantis, the Florida Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and the Florida Division of Emergency Management as we work jointly to tackle this challenge.


    We are engaging in behaviors we wish our citizens to emulate: we have cancelled all work-related travel, instituted new sanitation protocols and procedures and have instituted a modified leave plan for anyone who displays symptoms associated with COVID-19 or becomes ill with the virus.

    Additionally, we have reassigned staff to needed critical functions in order to better respond to the conditions created by the virus.

    • We are revoking permits for events on the beach and in parks after March 22nd until the end of April. We will not issue new permits until further notice.
    • Water and Sewer office lobbies will be closed after Friday, March 20th, 2020. The drive thru window, online bill pay, drop off and mail in methods will remain open.
    • We are minimizing lobby access in our buildings throughout the county to reduce the potential for contact with infected persons at our transit operations. We are also implementing heightened cleaning measures for public facilities.
    • All board meetings, until further notice, will be held at our location at 1250 N. Eglin Parkway in Shalimar. We are taking these measures in order to practice social distancing in a larger space.
    • We are cancelling all workshops until further notice.
    • Following a statewide conference with the Department of Education and other state officials today, the Okaloosa County School District has been notified that school sites will remain closed through April 15th.

    Walton County:

    • Walton County Board of County Commissioners (WCBCC), the WCBCC approved a motion to direct the County Attorney to draw up an emergency ordinance to close the beaches in Walton County.
    • All Schools closed
    • The Senior Center in DeFuniak Springs,located on College Ave. has been closed and will not reopen until further notice.
    • The Walton County Housing Agency will continue to serve the tenants and landlords on the program via email and phone. Until further notice, the office will be closed to walk-in visits.
    • Per Governor Executive Order - Restaurants in Florida will be able to stay open but only be allowed to fill to half capacity and all tables must be at least 6 feet apart. All Florida bars and nightclubs are to close beginning 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17th and must remain closed for 30 days. Cancellation of all BCC and TDC permitted outdoor events and beach activity ordinance special events.
    • Suspension of the rental of all public facilities.
    • County Tax CollectorClosed until March 31st.
    • Walton County Property Appraiser’s Office: Office lobbies closed to the public until further notice; curbside service available in conjunction with the Tax Collector’s office at both locations.
    • Walton County Clerk of Courts:suspending all jury trials in Florida’s Court System starting Monday, March 16, 2020, through Friday, March 27, 2020.
      • Anyone with a summons for jury duty dated between March 16, 2020, and March 27, 2020, are not required to appear as jury trials during this time have been cancelled. If you are unsure if your summons is impacted by this Order, please call 850-892-8115 to speak to a Deputy Clerk.
      • Walton County Clerk & Comptroller will continue to mail out summons forms between March 16th and March 27th to avoid delay to future court processes once the suspension of all jury trials is lifted.
    • South Walton Fire Department: All SWFD offices, including all fire stations, service centers and our fire district headquarters in Santa Rosa Beach, are now closed to the public until further notice in order to preserve critical Fire/EMS services. The public is discouraged from visiting any of the district’s five (5) fire stations unless you have a fire or medical emergency.

    Holmes County:

    • The Board of County Commissionershas elected to close its office effective 8:00am on Wednesday, March 18, 2020 and to remain closed until reevaluated on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. This is to help reduce potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus for our employees and our citizens, and to assist our nation’s preventative efforts. Although the County will be closed to the public, it will remain open to conduct business via phone and email. NOTE: All County Parks will be closed to the public.
    • All Schools closed

    (Holmes County is giving an update in the evening of 3/20 about further closed services.)

    Dawn McArdle, District Director
    dawn.mcardle@mail.house.gov, 850-479-1183