Fact Check: Is Ron DeSantis' First Responders Fund Paid For By Biden Plan?

Despite spiking criticism and controversy, Ron DeSantis chances of running as the Republican 2024 presidential candidate are on the rise.

As he continues to run ahead in polls for the November midterms, the Florida governor is touting his record on state economy, employment and his approach to lockdown restrictions during the pandemic.

In recent appearances he has also heralded $1,000 bonus payments for first responders as part of his state's budget, even though some have said President Joe Biden is the person to thank.

Florida Biden De Santis
Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently announced that Florida first responders would receive $1,000 recognition checks under a recent state budget. However, some have claimed the money for this plan comes from a Biden policy which the governor has previously attacked. From L-R Jeff Swensen/Getty Images, Sean Drakes/Getty Images, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Claim

Twitter and Facebook posts, published in September 2022, claim that $1,000 bonus payments for Florida first responders, announced by Ron DeSantis, were paid for by president Biden's American Rescue Plan.

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The Facts

Bonus checks for first responders were highlighted by DeSantis both before and after the Florida 22/23 FY Budget (referred to by the governor as the "Freedom First Budget") was signed off.

At a speech in Jacksonville in September 2022, DeSantis spoke in front of a lectern labeled "FIRST RESPONDER BONUSES" and personally handed out cheques.

He also seemed to credit his state's more liberal approach to COVID-19 restrictions and "the biggest budget surplus in the history of the state of Florida'' for the introduction of these payments.

You can watch the full speech here.

However, while the governor has not made this claim explicitly, the bonuses were not paid for through state funding. They were, in fact, paid for through the American Rescue Plan, a federally-funded program that DeSantis has previously criticized.

DeSantis has not been forthcoming about this fact and it's not well noted in Florida's budget papers either.

The budget, otherwise referred to as "HB 5001 - General Appropriations Act," states that the "First Responders Recognition Payments" is worth "$125 million SFRF."

That dangling abbreviation isn't labeled in the Senate budget papers. However, a Freedom First Budget presentation, presented as part of a package of documents on the Florida Senate website, clarifies that "SFRF" refers to "Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds," part of the American Rescue Plan.

The American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion relief package passed in March 2021, included billions of dollars in stimulus checks and $350 billion to state and local governments to "support their response to and recovery from the COVID-19 public health emergency."

The U.S. Department of The Treasury states the funds may be used to replace lost public sector revenue and provide "premium pay" for essential workers, among other spending streams.

At a March 2021 press conference DeSantis, referencing the bill, said "in some respects, it's kind of Washington at its worst."

He claimed elsewhere that Florida was penalized through the bill for having not enforced as many COIVD-19 restrictions as other states.

"What this bill does is it says if you locked down, if you destroyed your state, if you destroyed your economy, and you failed to stop COVID as well, you're going to get a windfall," DeSantis said.

Newsweek has contacted Ron DeSantis for comment.

The Ruling



The funding for the first responder recognition payment, which Ron DeSantis has publicized, is paid for through the American Rescue Plan, a federally-funded bill, signed in March 2021 by President Joe Biden. The Florida governor attacked the Biden-backed bill on a number of occasions.

Update 9/16/22, 5:15 a.m. ET: This article headline was updated for clarity.

FACT CHECK BY Newsweek's Fact Check team