DeSantis makes Lee County stop to tout $1,000 first responder bonuses in state budget

Reporter: Andryanna Sheppard Writer: Derrick Shaw
Published: Updated:
Gov. Ron DeSantis presents check during announcement of relief money to first responders in the state at Lee County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday, May 5, 2021. Credit: WINK News.

Gov. Ron DeSantis held a press conference Wednesday afternoon in south Fort Myers at the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

This was the third press conference of the day for DeSantis in which he announced a $1,000 bonus for law enforcement officers and first responders.

The funds to the state come from the federal government as part of The American Rescue Plan.

While first responders in Southwest Florida are grateful to get the money, it’s bittersweet for some.

Working the COVID-19 vaccine site at Naples Fire-Rescue’s Station 1 has been Training Chief Steven Kofsky’s most challenging yet rewarding assignment during the pandemic. That’s especially after losing Firefighter Tony Christensen to COVID-19 in August 2020.

“It is a great feeling. It really is,” Kofsky said. “People are telling us we have given them their life back. They can go out again.”

Kofsky will get a nice thank you of $1,000 dollars soon like his other fellow firefighters and first responders, who have all put their lives on the line daily as they normally would but with added risks during the pandemic.

“It is something that they understand, that their loved one, it’s their job,” Kofsky said. “We have a service that we have to provide to the community, and it’s something that we chose to do.”

“You can’t do the job of public safety on Zoom. You gotta show up. You gotta wear the uniform. You gotta be out,” Gov. DeSantis said. “And particularly in those other days and weeks where there was so much uncertainty about what was going to happen during COVID, the men and women who wore the uniform were there for us day in and day out.”

Some firefighters, including Kofsky, say this kind gesture is uncomfortable to accept. Kofsky told us he’s thankful he didn’t lose his job, hasn’t faced eviction, hasn’t needed to sit in food lines during this pandemic the way other Floridians

“It’s a great gesture, but we still would have done the job without the bonus,” Kofsky said. “We’ve been doing it since the beginning of the COVID crisis, and we will continue doing it.”

Still, Kofsky is thankful. When we asked him what he planned to do with the money he receives he said, “Pay bills.”

DeSantis said the bonuses will go out to first responders as soon as they can get it done. The governor also announced teachers will get bonuses as well. He didn’t say how much that bonus will be or when they’ll get it.

Watch the news conference below or click here.

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.