WASHINGTON – Florida lawmakers approved a $1 billion bond package for the state’s tourism industry Tuesday, a major step toward the state becoming the first to recover more than $1 trillion in losses due to Hurricane Matthew.
The legislation, which also boosts the state minimum wage, was approved by the state Senate in a 26-16 vote, after bipartisan support from Republicans and Democrats.
It also extends a state sales tax freeze through Jan. 1, 2019, and raises the state sales and property taxes by $500 million.
More than 40 million people have been impacted by the storm and thousands of homes have been destroyed or damaged.
In Florida, some 5,500 businesses have shut down or have taken temporary steps to reduce staff, including the closure of two major resorts, Disney World and Walt Disney World Resort, which will have more than 1,000 workers, and Disney World Vacation Club.
In a statement, Disney said the company will continue to work with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to find ways to support businesses in Florida.
Disney has more than 9,000 employees in Florida and is one of the largest corporations in the state, with more than 50,000 locations in the Sunshine State.
The company said it would provide $1 million to assist businesses impacted by Hurricane Matthew and help with relief and compensation.
On Tuesday, lawmakers also approved a bill that allows residents to register their pets for tax purposes, a measure that passed in the House but was not voted on in the Senate.
The Florida Dog Owners and Breeders Association applauded the measure as “historic” and said it will help the state regain the trust of its owners and breeders.
“Florida’s dog owners deserve the very best in their pets, and the recent legislation will help ensure that these incredible dogs and their owners can continue to enjoy their most cherished companions in our state,” said Jennifer Schott, the association’s vice president of public policy.
The bill also allows people to purchase new pet homes and allow them to have a pet that lives in their home without a fee.
The bill also provides tax breaks for pet owners who pay taxes on their pets and their property, as well as for pets that live in a pet-friendly area.
The House passed the bill earlier in the day, and lawmakers will have to approve it by midnight.
The Senate is expected to approve the measure by the end of the week.