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Florida ports to get $250 million in coronavirus relief aid

Florida’s ports will be getting $250 million in state and federal funds to help speed their economic recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday.

The money is coming in through the federal American Rescue Plan President Biden signed in March and its Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund. It is specifically targeted to support the financial recovery of 14 ports in the state. The funds will help compensate the ports for their decreased revenue in 2020 and can be used to invest in infrastructure.

The ports getting the funding are: Port Canaveral, $72.2 million; PortMiami, $66.9 million; Port Everglades, $58.2 million; Port Tampa Bay, $20.1 million; JAXPORT, $13.7 million; Port of Key West, $5 million; Port Manatee, $4.9 million; Port of Palm Beach, $4 million; and receiving $806,772 each are Port of Fernandina, Port of Ft. Pierce, Port of Panama City, Port of Pensacola, Port of St. Joe and Port St. Pete.

“Not only are Florida ports a key economic driver for their surrounding communities, but also for our state as a whole,” DeSantis said in a statement. “From the cruise industry, to cargo, to supporting military operations, our ports provide nearly 1 million jobs for Floridians. This $250 million investment in our ports is a commitment to our future economic prosperity for generations to come.”

“This much needed financial infusion will help ensure Florida’s ports continue to deliver necessities to businesses and consumers,” said Michael Rubin, president and CEO of the Florida Ports Council. “With cruise ships sidelined for more than 16 months, Florida has lost about 169,000 jobs and nearly $23 billion in economic activity through 2020.”

On July 27, the Florida Seaports Transportation and Economic Development Council released its Seaport Mission Plan: Navigating Beyond the Pandemic, which shows that Florida’s seaports experienced declines consistent with the overall trend for 2020. Waterborne trade value in 2020 fell 16.1% compared to 2019, a decline of $14.1 billion.

“The impact seaports have on every region in our state is enormous,” said FDOT Secretary Kevin Thibault.

“The funding announced today will have lasting positive impacts and significantly assist our seaport partners, as well as their surrounding communities,” he said.

“Throughout the pandemic, Port Everglades remained open while operating at a significant loss because Florida residents cannot survive without the commodities that ships carry,” said Jonathan Daniels, Chief Executive at Port Everglades.

Daniels noted ports employ skilled labor and are the lifeblood of their communities, adding that this federal relief was critical in keeping the supply chain up and running.

“PortMiami and our local cruising industry is a cornerstone of our regional economy and we are grateful for pivotal state and federal support for our port during this challenging time,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine-Cava.

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