Director Jesse Panuccio Tackles Fraud, Jobs and Florida’s Turnaround Story
By: Florida Chamber of Commerce
“The most important incentive we have is the general business climate in Florida — low taxes, sensible regulations, the investments we’ve put in critical infrastructure— so that’s the baseline of what draws people here.”
– Jesse Panuccio, Executive Director, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
Florida’s recovery has not come easy and has worked, in part, thanks to a united business community advocating under one voice. The Florida Chamber has long-advocated for policies that help create jobs and that will continue to stabilize our growing economy.
Public benefits fraud, if left unchecked, is one such issue that could quickly move our state in the wrong direction. Thanks to the leadership of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, however, Florida is leading the way on fighting fraud and ensuring tax payers don’t have to foot the bill.
“We decided to use a data analytics system to look for patterns of fraud and see what we could find and the results were staggering— over the last two years we found over 130,000 fraudulent claims,” said Executive Director Jesse Panuccio. “If we had paid full benefits on these it would have been $529 million! This is a huge industry, it’s terribly harmful for the social safety net, for the resources we have to run the program and pay benefits and it’s a crisis I think that isn’t getting enough attention nationally. What we are endeavoring to do at DEO is to become the number one agency in the country for fighting public benefits fraud, we are trying to set an example of what you can do if you really focus on this and we are getting results.”
Along with fighting fraud, Florida must also continue to attract targeted businesses to our state. Florida does many things right in terms of business climate, but we must continue to market our state nationally- something competitive states often spend millions on each year.
“The most important incentive we have is the general business climate in Florida— low taxes, sensible regulations, the investments we’ve put in critical infrastructure— so that’s the baseline of what draws people here,” said Director Panuccio. “But for those very competitive projects, we do have a suite of tax incentives. DEO works with our partners at Enterprise Florida and local economic development agencies to bring those projects and administer those incentives… So DEO can be seen as the agency that sort of protects the tax payer money. Enterprise Florida is the chief marketer, they help negotiate the deals, we make sure that proper due diligence is performed on those deals and monitor performance so that tax payers get exactly what they bargained for.”
And on the “Florida Miracle,” our state has come a long way:
“Florida has had an incredible economic turnaround story over the last few years,” said Director Panuccio. “Our role is really to coordinate workforce development, economic development and community development and growth management. We administer a lot of the policies and programs that are really focused on growing the jobs base in this state. We are seeing results- again we allow the private sector to keep their money and have lower taxes and growth and they do the right thing, they invest it smartly and we’ve seen that job growth. We are now outpacing all other larges states in terms of our private-sector job growth.”