TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – More than 100,000 Florida companies who do business with the state are getting a letter asking about their ownership.
The letter seeks to determine if the companies are owned by the Chinese government, and at least one viewer isn’t happy with the letter’s tone.
Florida spends more than $50 billion a year on outside vendors.
Those vendors are being contacted by CFO Jimmy Patronis, asking if they are owned by the Chinese government.
His goal, be prepared to withhold payments if sanctions are sought over the coronavirus.
“There’s no two ways about it. The state of Florida has seen loss of life. We’ve had loss of economic opportunity, loss of jobs. So there is a huge debt to be paid back to the state of Florida. I think having that data in hand is critical,” said Patronis.
The letter caught the attention of a viewer who called it intimidating.
“The veiled threat is in the second paragraph, where it says you are hereby requested to respond in 30 days by verifying your status…in order to avoid necessary followup by the Department,” said the business owner, who asked to remain anonymous. “What are they capable of? They could easily knock me out of the cue for a bid. Or flat out deny me an award.”
Patronis told us no intimidation was intended.
“Read the letter. It’s very clear. We ask them to participate. It’s simply an ask,” said Patrons.
“But how can it be voluntary if I need to avoid a necessary followup by the department?” said the business owner.
The letter cost at least $50,000 in postage, not including any printing or prep costs.
The CFO calls it money well spent.
Much of the information the CFO is seeking is also available on the state’s corporate filing website, but it would not include companies registered in other states who are also vendors in Florida.