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Government revenues in Florida slide further amid COVID-19

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The coronavirus outbreak continued to pummel tax revenues in Florida, as state officials on Monday reported another slide in sales taxes and fees — money that the government relies on to pay state workers and keep many programs running.

State officials reported that revenues posted in June were more than $427 million under estimate, even as the state’s economy began reopening. That brings the fiscal year’s cumulative loss to $1.9 billion. The state’s fiscal year runs from July 1 until June 30.

Last month’s slide, though, was an improvement from the months before. In April, revenues for that month were nearly $780 million below expectations. In March, the loss was estimated at $900 million.

As was the case earlier, the bulk of last month's revenue deficit was because of a continued downturn in sales tax revenues since the start of the outbreak, which prompted severe limitations across the economy. To limit the spread of the virus, bars were ordered closed and restaurants severely scaled back operations. The tourist industry and other key drivers of the state's economy were put on pause.

If not for a slight revenue bump before the pandemic, the state's coffers would be even deeper in the hole. From March to June, the state has now come $2.1 billion under expectations.

“As we near the end of the first month of the new fiscal year, it is hard to believe the wide-ranging impact the corononavirus has had on our state, nation, and world in just five short months," said the state's Senate President Bill Galvano, in a memo Monday to his chamber's members.

The downturn in state revenues will cast a large shadow as lawmakers and the governor's office draft spending plans for the current fiscal year and beyond.

Officials are hopeful that revenues will begin to rebound as the state's economy continues to open, despite uncertainty over the pandemic.

Revenues, particularly from sales taxes, will depend heavily on the ability of consumers to spend money. Many Floridians are still out of work.

In June, Florida’s unemployment rate dropped to 10.4% in from the previous month’s 13.7% rate as the state’s theme parks, restaurants, bars and other businesses started reopening after being shuttered for weeks.