Representative Raschein Talks Tourism Budget and Florida Keys Recovery

 

The Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line public affairs program spoke with Representative Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) about recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Florida’s tourism industry, and the issues surrounding VISIT FLORIDA’s budget.

“Every day we get a little better in the keys. We’ve got our essential needs covered right now – food, fuel, water and communications. But now, we are in the harder long-term recovery phase and housing is a critical need right now,” Representative Raschein said. “Tourism is our number one industry, so just letting folks know that we are back open for business, we are a little bit changed right now, but we are getting better day by day.”

Representative Raschein said she wants to see a unified approach to solving VISIT FLORIDA’s budget from both the House and the Senate.

“VISIT FLORIDA is an incredible agency,” Representative Raschein said. “It is my hope that we see both chambers come together and understand that these dollars pay for themselves and are so beneficial to our state. It is my hope that the Senate will see and come to the House’s position.”

 

Get Involved

Florida’s tourism industry is at risk with the proposed funding for VISIT FLORIDA cutting more than one-third of their 2016 budget. To help keep Florida’s tourism industry thriving or for more information, please contact Carolyn Johnson at cjohnson@flchamber.com or (850) 521-1235.

Keeping Florida Open for Business

As the 2017 Hurricane Season comes to an end, we’d like to thank some of the Florida companies that ensured our state remained open for business after Hurricane Irma:

  • AT&T set up a website that let anyone stateside register the cell phone number of a family member or friend who is an AT&T wireless company in Puerto Rico so they would be notified once the customer in Puerto Rico connected.
  • AvMed collected funds and supplies from their associates to assist those associates impacted in their sister company.
  • Airbnb offered free accommodations to families who needed a safe place to stay.
  • Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation expedited grants to provide a new generator to Dupugh Nursing Home.
  • Equality Florida directed fundraising efforts of their national, state and local partners in response to both Irma and Maria, as well as helping mobilize Orlando United efforts to get resources to Puerto Rico.
  • Florida Blue spent $1 million across Florida and $50,000 to Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. In addition, they established an employee assistance fund for Florida Blue employees.
  • FloridaMakes worked directly with manufacturing firms that were impacted and coordinated with Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and other partners on business disaster recovery.
  • Nemours Children’s Health System worked with state officials and offered free pediatric telemedicine visits throughout Florida. Florida Hospital and Orlando Health also provided free telehealth services.
  • Seminole State College of Florida, St. Petersburg College, Tallahassee Community College, Valencia College and 35 other colleges and universities waived out-of-state tuition for students who are coming to Florida from Houston, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
  • Take Stock in Children conducted a full impact assessment as it relates to students and their families as well as our mentors and the schools they served and provided assistance where needed.
  • Florida Power & Light, Gulf Power and Duke Energy sent teams to work around the clock to help restore power at record rates.
  • Publix shipped supplies to the Florida Keys and reopened stores as soon as they were able, to provide quality service to people without power in their communities.
  • Companies like Uber and Lyft provided much-needed transportation.
  • NCH Healthcare System in Naples served over 15,000 hot meals to those safely sheltering in their hospitals.
  • CSX helped bring feed in for cattle.
  • United States Sugar Corporation delivered truckloads of water and ice to residents in Immokalee prior to FEMA’s arrival.

And our partners at State Farm, AllState, American Traditions, RenaissanceRe, Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers, Personal Insurance Federation of Florida, Florida Association of Insurance Agents, and Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

To share your hurricane story, email vbustamante@flchamber.com.

Florida Chamber President Provides Hurricane Irma Economic Outlook During Testimony Before Senate Commerce Committee

 

Read Testimony   Fight AOB Fraud    Local Chamber Relief Fund

 

In a testimony before the Florida Senate Commerce Committee, Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson told lawmakers that Florida will rebound from Irma.

During his remarks to the committee, which is chaired by Senator Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee), Wilson encouraged lawmakers to focus on continuous improvement and to join forces with the private sector to help secure Florida’s future.  Click here to read Wilson’s testimony.

Irma yielded the largest evacuation in U.S. history, and as Wilson explained, there’s no question we’ll learn lessons from this storm. From an economic outlook perspective, Wilson testified that:

  • Tax revenue likely won’t keep up with storm expenses,
  • Job growth will continue to slow,
  • A gap in skilled labor – particularly for home repairs and rebuilding – will hurt in the short-term, and
  • Lawsuit chasers, as highlighted in the Wall Street Journal, “are trying to milk the public’s pain for their own gain.” Wilson encouraged lawmakers to side with consumers in frivolous class action claims.

Looking forward, he applauded state leaders for making smart public policy decisions to reduce exposure and spread risk in Citizens Property Insurance and Florida’s CAT Fund. However, he warned that the tsunami of assignment of benefit-related claims that have flooded the market – unrelated to Hurricane Irma – are causing property insurance rates to skyrocket. He encouraged lawmakers to make meaningful reforms this session.

Wilson was joined on the panel by partners in Florida’s business community, including:

  • Cissy Proctor, Executive Director, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
  • Ken Lawson, President & CEO, VISIT FLORIDA
  • Michelle Dennard, President and CEO, CareerSource Florida
  • Cheryl Kirby, Associate State Director, Florida SBDC
  • Lance Lozano, Chief Operating Officer, Florida United Business Association

 

Call on the Legislature to Fight AOB Fraud

Fight back against the growing storm of assignment of benefits fraud. Sign the petition and call on the Legislature to stop this “Category 5 hurricane.”

 

Support Local Chambers in Need

Support local chambers in need of relief following Hurricane Irma by contributing to the Florida Chamber Local Chamber Relief Fund.

Wall Street Journal: “Hurricane Irma’s Lawsuit Chasers”

As post-Hurricane Irma recovery continues in many parts of Florida, Syd Kitson, Chair of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, recently shared with readers of the Naples Daily News why he’s proud to be a Floridian.

Yet, as the Wall Street Journal showed us today, “trial lawyers never let a disaster go to waste.”

“Storm-chasing attorneys in Florida” have filed a class-action lawsuit against Florida Power & Light, and are seeking between $2 and $3 billion in damages for allegedly not properly caring for its infrastructure.

As the Wall Street Journal writes, “losing power is no doubt aggravating,” but “by September 19 Florida Power & Light had restored service to 99% of customers affected by the storm that swept the entire Florida Peninsula.”

The editorial also highlights questionable relations between Miami-based MSP Recovery Law, one of the firms who filed the lawsuit, and local government officials. The editorial draws into question the city’s refusal to scale back trees and foliage – which the utility notes were planted too close to power lines, making securing the energy infrastructure challenging – and a local official’s “motivations other than civic virtue for deflecting blame to the utility.”

Did You Know?

Florida’s legal climate ranks among the worst in the country – 46 out of 50 states. Lawsuit abuse costs Florida families about $3,400 every year. Help us fix Florida’s broken legal system. Call me today at 850-521-1235 or email me at cjohnson@flchamber.com.

Consumer Alert

How Florida Saved Taxpayers

Reforms Helped a State-Backed Insurer Weather the Storm

These columns are often critical of government, especially when public officials put taxpayers on the hook for future risks. Think Fannie Mae, or federal flood insurance. So it’s worth pointing out when a government acts to reduce taxpayer liabilities ahead of a fiscal storm, as Florida did before Hurricane Irma.

The example is taxpayer-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-owned insurer that not long ago was a fiscal disaster awaiting the next hurricane.

 

Click here to read the complete editorial in The Wall Street Journal.

Hurricane Irma – Resources for Small Businesses

Florida’s small businesses are the backbone of the state’s economy, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce is committed to being your partner before, during and after Hurricane Irma. We’re prepared to help ensure you, your business and your employees are protected, and that your business can get back up and running after Irma’s impact.

Resources to Help You

As your partner, below is a list of resources available to help ensure you and your employees are prepared for the storm and have the ability to get back on your feet after the storm:

  • REAL TIME UPDATES
    For businesses and families, get real time updates from www.FloridaChamber.com/hurricane. Here you will have access to the latest information before, during and after the storm – information gathered from our coordination with the state EOC.
  • FOLLOW US
    Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional real time updates.
  • GRASSROOTS OPERATION CENTER
    Just as we would share the latest legislative, political or important economic data points with you, we’ll tap into our vast grassroots network to direct the latest news and information on Irma your way.
  • CONSUMER ALERT
    Scams are unfortunate and not acceptable, and we’re committed to making sure you’re aware. In fact, one scam we know homeowners will be targeted with is called AOB – Assignment of Benefits. Learn how to protect yourself by watching this short video. Be on the lookout for more Consumer Alerts.

Digital Disaster Preparedness

Is your business prepared to weather the storm? Do you have back up services to protect your email systems from disaster? If not, the Florida Chamber of Commerce recommends AppRiver. They have activated their FREE Digital Disaster Preparedness Service to ensure that your email servers remain up and running in the event of a disaster. The Florida Chamber uses AppRiver and encourages you to have a backup system in place. For more information, click here.

Hurricane Irma Public Service Announcement & Alerts for Businesses

To help prepare and protect businesses and families, the Florida Chamber of Commerce is making available the below 30 second Public Service Announcement. This PSA is available for your use to encourage businesses and families to take necessary precautions.

 

Additional hurricane preparation resources are being communicated to businesses, local chambers of commerce and business partners statewide. To learn more about those resources, please visit www.FloridaChamber.com/Hurricane.