TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — After 911 operators missed out on $1,000 bonuses first responders received for assisting during Hurricane Ian recovery efforts, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to re-categorize 911 dispatchers as first responders.
Fried made her plea in a letter addressed to DeSantis on Monday, Nov. 21, stating, "In October, you stood with Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Dane Eagle on Sanibel Island to present $1,000 checks to first responders assisting in Hurricane Ian recovery efforts. This week, the Tampa Bay Times, as well as other media outlets, have reported that 911 dispatchers did not receive these relief checks."
Fresh Take Florida's Katie Delk spoke with a 911 operator who worked 12-hour shifts following Hurricane Ian. Christine Hodges said they "answered calls for hours, stopping only for the bathroom and naps. Some stepped aside to cry, she said. They were the only lifeline while other emergency workers stopped responding to calls in person because of high winds."
In addition to 911 dispatchers, Fried said 245 Florida Forestry Services personnel who either responded to Hurricane Ian, were impacted, or both, were also neglected when $1,000 checks were handed to first responders.
"We can agree that our first responders have performed admirably as Hurricane Ian approached Florida, and in the aftermath," Fried wrote. "I hope we can also agree that Florida being one of thirty-two states in the nation that does not treat 911 operators as first responders is wrong. It is my hope that the bills which have failed in the Florida Legislature to designate 911 operators as first responders will be passed in the upcoming legislative session."
Fried also asked that the same compensation made to first responders on Sanibel Island in October be made to FDACS first responders.