DeSantis awards $3.5M to boost Union County infrastructure, comments on 800K expired COVID tests

Grant meant for wastewater collection

Gov. DeSantis speaks in Lake Butler on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022. (Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

LAKE BUTLER, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday awarded $3.5 million to Union County to fortify its infrastructure, both in anticipation and the wake of major hurricanes.

Speaking at Lake Butler City Hall, the governor said the grant was part of a Community Development Block Grant Program that will go toward wastewater collection and pumping system hardening in the county.

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DeSantis said that the master pump station will be hardened, the resiliency of the wastewater force main will be improved and generators will be provided for six different pump stations.

“This is something that we were happy to do, particularly to be able to help our rural areas, and I think that this will serve -- this system serves pretty much every every resident of the city, which is a really big deal,” he said.

Dane Eagle, secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, said the grant was overseen by the DEO’s Office of Long-Term Resiliency as last resort help to satisfy unmet needs in Union County following Hurricane Irma.

“The governor has directed us to make sure that we’re looking in pockets of the state that really have a need, and that’s what we’re doing today,” Eagle said. “This $3.5 million is going to go a long way to make sure that the city and the county don’t have to suffer again after a future storm.”

DeSantis also spoke about 800,000 COVID-19 test kits that expired in a warehouse last month, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

“Having a stockpile was the right thing to do. I mean, if we had done the opposite, we would have run out and then had to order as people had done it,” DeSantis said. “We just had a lack of demand that happened in September, October, November; nobody was requesting them. They would have been used, I think, had we had omicron then, but you also don’t want a situation where you’re wasting millions and millions of dollars.”

Florida requested and had been granted an extension by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to use the tests ahead of their expiration date, but the state kept the tests in a stockpile because “no one really wanted them for many, many months,” DeSantis said.

“They (FDEM) had already gotten one extension, they had asked, ‘Can you do more, can you do more?,’ they (HHS) said ‘No,’ so hopefully they’ll answer that and if anyone wants those, they’ll do- at the same time, if they’re not accurate we don’t want to be giving people a false sense,” DeSantis said.

The governor shifted focus to the 1 million at-home test kits that he said the state began shipping Thursday to nursing homes and long-term care facilities that request them.

“We’ve acquired a million at-home tests, we’re going to be sending those first to our nursing homes and long-term care facilities, and then we’re going to focus getting those in the hands of our senior population who wants it, so they’re able to just do that and then move on,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis also discussed 15,000 doses of Regeneron the state secured from the federal government on Friday, criticizing the Biden administration for not sending more.

“I had asked for 30 (thousand), so that’s still not what we want, because we want to do more sites for people to be able to get treated,” DeSantis said.

A news release from the governor’s office about the monoclonal antibody shipment said that DeSantis would continue to request additional doses of Regeneron, accusing the Biden administration of getting “in the way of lifesaving treatment for Floridians.”

About the Author:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.