The Florida Department of Education confirmed that at least fifty physical bonus checks issued to Florida educators drawing on funds from the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan were “impacted” by a banking error that caused some teacher’s checks to be returned for insufficient funds. The $1,000 bonuses have been a prominent piece of Governor Ron DeSantis’ legislative agenda, and received bipartisan support. The bonuses were intended to show appreciation for teachers who worked through the 2020-21 school year amid challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Today’s bonus check debacle once again shows Governor DeSantis will always put his own political interests above the needs of the state he is supposed to lead,” Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz said said in reaction to this head-scratching development.
“When the Florida Legislature decided on a bipartisan basis to send out $400 million in pandemic relief dollars to teachers and first responders in the form of one-time bonuses, DeSantis, like his mentor Donald Trump, saw an opportunity to use public funds to promote his own personal political interests. Instead of channeling the money directly to local governments so they could distribute them to their employees at no cost to taxpayers, DeSantis wasted $3.6 million of our dollars sending out paper checks just so he could put his signature on them,” Diaz continued.
The state said that while approximately 50 individuals were impacted, there were 176,000 educators who received a disaster relief payment. The state added that impacted educators were identified and the bank has indicated they will be reimbursing all penalties and fees.
“As if that wasn’t infuriating enough, the bonuses are coming from the American Rescue Plan, a bill that neither he nor a single Republican in Congress supported. This whole fiasco is a true DeSantis special,” Diaz said. “It’s unnecessarily costly, and detrimental to both the recipients and the taxpayers, and topped off with a huge dollop of hypocrisy. One wonders whether Governor DeSantis will ever truly understand what his job is: it is not to campaign perennially but to actually serve the people of the state he supposedly leads. Governor, please get it straight: you are in a position of authority to help us, not to help yourself.”
According to the Florida Education Association, $3,519,100 was allocated for the time and bureaucracy necessary for the Department of Education to administer these checks and outsource the mailing of these checks to a private corporation instead of simply giving the funds to the school district to provide to teachers.