Director Jesse Panuccio Tackles Fraud, Jobs and Florida’s Turnaround Story

“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.”

Exclusive Unemployment Comp Update From DEO Director Jesse Panuccio

Skim any newspaper these days and you’re likely to find a story about identity theft.  Some of the breaches are massive in scope: 83 million identities from JP Morgan, 80 million from Anthem Healthcare, 70 million from Target, and 24 million from the federal Office Personnel Management.  Why has this crime become so prevalent?  First, because it’s easy: in our digitized age, our personal information is everywhere, and it’s not very well protected.  Second, the crime is profitable: stolen identifies can be used to open credit card accounts, drain checking accounts, take out loans, purchase medical care, and steal tax refunds and public benefits like unemployment insurance.

Make no mistake about it: Data breaches and the resulting fraud have reached crisis levels. Organized criminal enterprises are, on a vast scale, using stolen identities to defraud public benefits systems.  The negative effects of this crisis are stark: It harms those whose identities are stolen, it robs the social safety net of limited resources, it imposes unwarranted costs on taxpayers, and it undermines public confidence in government.

The Department of Economic Opportunity, which administers unemployment insurance in Florida, takes these crimes very seriously, and we have made fighting fraud a top priority.  While technology makes public-benefits fraud easier, the good news is that it also provides new tools for fighting such fraud.  In early 2014, DEO developed and implemented a digital system that analyzes unemployment-claims data and detects patterns of fraud. The results are revealing. In just eighteen months, we’ve identified more than 110,000 fraudulent claims, representing $470 million in potential benefits. (In 2014, Florida paid a total of $840 million in unemployment benefits.)

The taxpayers of Florida, and across the nation, need to know that only those who legitimately deserve public benefits are receiving them.  DEO can’t do this alone, but we are dedicated to working with our partners in this state and across the country to safeguard all of the hardworking Floridians who bear the burden of public-benefits fraud.

Authored by Director Jesse Panuccio, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity

Get Involved:

Contact Carolyn Johnson at to share your business story.



Florida Added 32,000 Jobs in October 2014

Did You Know?

Florida job creators added 32,000 private-sector jobs during October, which helped lower the state’s unemployment rate to 6.0 percent.

Low tax, pro-growth policies are making a difference for families. Consider that:

  • Nine out of Florida’s 10 major industries saw positive over-the-year job growth in October,
  • 59 of Florida’s 67 counties saw their unemployment rate drop, and
  • Florida has experienced 56 consecutive months of positive job growth.

Since December 2010, Florida has added 679,000 private-sector jobs, and has dropped its unemployment rate by 5.1 percentage points. In fact, since April 2012, Florida’s annual job growth rate has been better than the national rate.

And more jobs are on the horizon. Projections from the Florida Economic Estimating Conference show that, assuming no significant changes, Florida is forecasted to add approximately 178,000 jobs throughout the coming year.

Florida is not only growing again, but according to Mark Vitner, a Senior Economist with Wells Fargo Securities, it’s doing it the right way. “We’ve made tremendous strides in moving up the value chain,” said Vitner. “It’s a far different world today than it was 10 or 20 years ago, a far healthier mix of jobs and far more promising future.”

With the release of October’s employment numbers, Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio commented on Florida’s economic indicators and stated, “Florida is showing the nation that low tax, pro-growth policies make a difference for families.  The 32,000 new private sector jobs, the 268,000 job openings, and an unemployment rate down to 6.0 percent mean that Florida is getting back to work.”

But we must continue to plan for the future.

  • By 2030, Florida will need to create nearly two million net new jobs across the state to maintain a six percent unemployment rate, according to the Florida Chamber Foundation.

“It is essential that communities and job creators across Florida stay focused on diversification and building the economy of tomorrow to attract high wage jobs, achieve global competitiveness, and maintain our high quality of life and the vibrant and sustainable communities we have grown accustomed to,” said Florida Chamber Foundation Executive Vice President Tony Carvajal.

We’re now turning the tables on you. How is your community and industry preparing for the economy of tomorrow? Tell us your story.

Want to Take Part in Securing Florida’s Future?

The Florida Chamber Foundation is currently recruiting the brightest minds from industry across the state to help us secure Florida’s future. If you would like to have your voice heard as we prepare the Cornerstone 2030 report, contact Tony Carvajal today.

Are you interested in your community joining a Six Pillars Caucus or becoming a Six Pillars Community? Want to learn how The Florida Scorecard can work for your organization? Let us know by emailing us at

About the Florida Scorecard Did You Know:

The Florida Scorecard, located at, presents metrics across Florida’s economy? Each month, the Florida Chamber Foundation produces a Scorecard Stat that takes an in-depth look at one aspect of Florida’s economy. If you would like additional information on the Weekly Scorecard Stat or on the Florida Scorecard, please contact Tracey Lowe with the Florida Chamber Foundation at 850.521.1226 or You can also follow the Florida Chamber Foundation on Twitter at @FLChamberFDN.

Future is Bright for Florida’s Military, Defense and Veterans Success

CONTACT: Tracey Lowe
Florida Chamber Foundation
Phone: 850-521-1226
Cell: 850-212-8438

Florida Chamber Summit Urges Continued Focus on Protecting State’s Military Investments

TALLAHASSEE, FL. (August 13, 2014) – The future looks bright for Florida’s military, defense industry and veterans, but we must remain laser focused on protecting the state’s financial and physical military interest to remain competitive, leaders attending the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Military, Defense Industry and Veterans Opportunities Summit said today.

“The Committee on Veterans Affairs was able to put together and pass bipartisan legislation that is a good first step to bring better healthcare to our nation’s veterans,” Congressman Jeff Miller, Chair of the U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs told summit attendees. Miller also highlighted Florida Governor Rick Scott and his dedication to the state’s veteran population.

An analysis by the Florida Chamber Foundation shows the important role Florida’s military, defense industry and its veteran population have on the state’s economy:

  • Economic impact – more than $70 billion, or about 10 percent of Florida’s economy,
  • 1.5 million combat veterans call Florida home,
  • More than 60,000 activity duty U.S. service members reside in Florida with their families,
  • Florida’s 20 major military installations account for more than 750,000 jobs, and
  • The average annual wages in the industry are more than $75,000.

Partner organizations like Enterprise Florida, Inc., the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity play vital roles in helping strengthen the military, defense and veterans industry.

“With a Governor that is focused on jobs and, as a veteran himself who understands the policies needed to be made to help the defense industry, we will make this the best state for manufacturers to build for the defense of our country,” Rep. Jimmie T. Smith (HD 43, Lecanto) told summit attendees.

The Florida Chamber Foundation, host of today’s summit, remains focused on ensuring Florida’s military, defense industry and veterans future is bright. For a more competitive Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce remains committed to making Florida more competitive by protecting investments in the military and defense industry and supporting veterans.

Today’s Military, Defense Industry and Veterans Opportunities Summit also featured U.S. Congressman John Mica, former U.S. V.A. Secretary Anthony Principi, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio and Florida Department of Veterans Affairs’ Executive Director Mike Prendergast. Tony Carvajal, Executive Vice President of the Florida Chamber Foundation, served as emcee.




The Florida Chamber Foundation is the business-led, solutions development and research organization working in partnership with state business leaders to secure Florida’s future. The Foundation’s “Six Pillars” serve as a visioning platform for developing the first-ever, long-term strategic plan for the state. The Foundation’s work focuses on: 1) Talent Supply and Education, 2) Innovation and Economic Development, 3) Infrastructure and Growth Leadership, 4) Business Climate and Competitiveness, 5) Civic and Governance Systems, and 6) Quality of Life and Quality Places. Founded in 1968, the Foundation is a crucial voice for improving the state’s pro-business climate to enable Florida to grow and prosper. For more information, visit