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Florida lawmakers eye big boost in coronavirus funding

Legislature tucks away $200 million just in case more funding is needed to fight the disease

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida lawmakers are upping the ante when it comes to funding the fight to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

While they have already agreed to spend a total of $75 million in state and local funding as part of the effort, they want to commit an additional $200 million in funds just in case.

The House was back to business as usual Tuesday.

It was a far cry from Monday when the chamber was evacuated and disinfected after lawmakers learned five members were at an event 10 days prior where one person tested positive for the virus.

Rep. Byron Donalds was one of five legislators briefly quarantined as a result of the scare.

“For a moment, you’re ‘Oh my gosh.’ Seriously, you are,” Donalds said. “But then you sit down and take stock of your personal health and where you are. The other members that I was with in self-imposed quarantine, for lack of better words, we kind of realize we were fine and going to be fine.”

Lawmakers usually deal with problems in the abstract, where they’re distant concepts. But Monday’s scare brought the contagious virus front and center. Hours later, legislative leaders decided to set aside $200 million in the state’s reserves – just in case.

“We have to do that work of where we find these dollars,” House Speaker Jose Oliva said. “But we want to put together a good pot of money.”

That money can be used as needed to fight the emergency under the executive order issued Monday by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The state Department of Agriculture issued guidance for restaurants and other licensed establishments, urging them to train employees, provide wipes and tissues, and encouraging them to wipe down counter tops and grocery cart handles frequently.