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Tallahassee, Fla. – Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced more than $4.6 million in awards to communities in Northwest Florida that were impacted by Hurricane Michael through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s (DEO) Rural Infrastructure Fund (RIF). In 2020, the Florida Legislature created a special appropriation for RIF projects in Calhoun, Gadsden, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty, and Washington Counties. These funds were appropriated to bolster infrastructure and promote economic development in these rural communities.

“My administration remains committed to areas still recovering from past storms,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “This $4.5 million will go a long way toward giving some of the rural areas affected by Hurricane Michael the extra boost they need to attract investment and improve their economies.”

The Rural Infrastructure Fund is administered by DEO and provides funding to facilitate the planning, preparing, and financing of infrastructure projects in rural communities. Improving current infrastructure encourages job creation, capital investment, and the strengthening and diversification of rural economies through the promotion of tourism, trade, and economic development.

“I extend my appreciation to Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature for their continued commitment to assist Northwest Florida communities impacted by Hurricane Michael through the special appropriation of Rural Infrastructure Funds,” said Dane Eagle, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “We look forward to working with these rural communities to help foster economic development and infrastructure projects in this region.” Continue reading

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Attorney General Ashley Moody’s efforts to protect Floridians and hold scammers accountable continue this week as Florida recognizes National Consumer Protection Week. Since 2019, Attorney General Moody’s Consumer Protection Division has secured more than $260 million in restitution and other relief for Floridians. Efforts to protect consumers quickly evolved early last year as COVID-19 began to spread and Florida fell under a state of emergency.

Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “As COVID-19 spread, so did scams exploiting the pandemic. Inevitably, as millions of Floridians started working from home to slow the spread of the virus, new schemes emerged capitalizing on fear of the virus and using the government’s response as a basis for creating new scams. These schemes relied heavily on technology—using emails, texts and robocalls as tools to reach targets in order to steal consumers’ money and personal information.

“I am proud of the response by my Consumer Protection attorneys and investigators quickly adapting to this new environment to protect Floridians from fraud and deception. Because of their hard work, we have recovered millions of dollars for consumers and helped prevent countless Floridians from falling victim to emerging scams by issuing Consumer Alerts as we learn of new schemes. This Consumer Protection Week, we will focus on some of the great work these dedicated public servants are doing to help build a Stronger, Safer Florida.”

Florida remains under a state of emergency due to the pandemic and Attorney General Moody’s Price Gouging Hotline remains active. Through reports to the hotline and other contacts with the Attorney General’s Office, millions of dollars are being recovered and well over 10,000 consumer concerns have been addressed.

For more on Attorney General Moody’s efforts to prevent price gouging and provide consumer relief amid the COVID-19 State of Emergency, click here.

In addition to fighting to protect consumers amid the pandemic, since taking office in 2019 Attorney General Moody has worked to stop a myriad of scams and deceptive trade practices. A few of the notable cases include:

State of Florida v. Client Care Experts: Client Care Experts operated a tech support business that allegedly exploited consumers’ fears about computer viruses, hackers and other security threats to dupe consumers into purchasing costly and unnecessary technical support services and software. To date, the Attorney General’s Office has obtained three consent final judgments imposing permanent injunctions and more than $12.5 million in total relief, including $10 million in restitution to consumers. The case is still active against the remaining defendants in the scheme and collection efforts are ongoing.

State of Florida v. Ocwen Financial Corp: Attorney General Moody and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation brought a joint action against Ocwen to address deficiencies in Ocwen’s residential mortgage loan servicing, including alleged failure to accurately onboard loans to its system of record, mishandling borrowers’ escrow accounts, overcharging borrowers’ accounts and sending misleading communications about borrowers’ accounts. Through a consent judgment entered by the federal district court, the Attorney General’s Office secured more than $11 million in total relief, including $6.5 million in debt relief for eligible borrowers and more than $2 million in restitution.

State of Florida v. PEAKS Trust: PEAKS Trust, a private loan program run by ITT and affiliated with Deutsche Bank entities, extended temporary credit to students that the business allegedly knew or should have known would not be able to repay. When the temporary credit became due, ITT pressured and coerced students into accepting loans from PEAKS that often carried high interest rates. Attorney General Moody and a coalition of other state attorneys general took action to secure approximately $330 million in debt relief, including more than $24 million for Floridians.

Guiribitey Cosmetic and Beauty Institute, Inc. d/b/a CG Cosmetic Surgery: Attorney General Moody’s Consumer Protection Division investigated CG Cosmetic Surgery based on allegations that the company engaged in deceptive or unfair acts toward consumers in Florida and elsewhere in connection with the advertising, promoting, marketing and offering of plastic surgery services. As a result of action taken by Attorney General Moody’s Consumer Protection Division, CG Cosmetic Surgery issued refunds to consumers totaling more than $274,000.

FTC and State of Florida v. American Veterans Foundation and Paul Monville: American Veterans Foundation claimed donations would help prevent veteran homelessness. AVF made multiple promises, including that the organization would send care packages to service members overseas and help veterans get counseling. However, the Attorney General’s Office’s investigation revealed that less than three percent of the funds went to helping homeless veterans and most contributions went toward fundraising, employee compensation and other overhead. As a result of joint action with the Federal Trade Commission, the Attorney General’s Office secured a permanent injunction and order requiring AVF and its principal Paul Monville to pay more than $119,000 to be redistributed for charitable purposes, a portion of which was used in building a specially adapted smart home in Jupiter for a veteran injured in the line of duty.

In recognition of National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General Moody will be highlighting additional efforts to protect Floridians. Attorney General Moody will also be reaching out directly to consumers through social media.

To follow the week-long Twitter campaign, visit Twitter.com/AGAshleyMoody.

To report consumer scams or deceptive business practices, visit MyFloridaLegal.com or call 1(866) 9NO-SCAM. To report suspected price gouging, consumers can also download the No Scam app. For more information on the app, click here.

(NAPSI)—About 40.7 million Americans have some kind of disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. If you or someone you care about has a disability, you may wonder what it means for employment. You may be encouraged to know that there are supports and services available that can help you or your loved ones pursue work and reach your goals through Social Security’s Ticket to Work (Ticket) program.

Ticket To Work Program

The Ticket program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits and want to work. This program is free and voluntary. Program participants select a service provider to help them prepare for, and find, a job. The provider may be a State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency or an Employment Network (EN)—a public or private organization that has an agreement with Social Security—to offer:

•Career planning

•Job placement assistance

•Ongoing employment support.

These career development services and supports are unique to each individual. Participants work with their service providers to develop a customized plan and identify the supports they need to reach their work goals. Continue reading

Friday, March 26, 2021 | 6 – 9:30 p.m.

“Viva la vida!” Join us at the Tuscawilla Art Park for an After Dark in the Park showing of the motion picture “Frida”, a biographical film about the life of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Enjoy a live musical performance by Mariachi Orlando Internacional, The Mamas and the Tapas food truck, cash bar, artisan vendors, movie concessions, and more!

This event is open to the public and admission is free. Bring your chairs and blankets as we create a beautiful outdoor theater under the stars, amongst sculptures and backdrop of historic Ocala Union Station. The Tuscawilla Art Park Series is sponsored by TriEagle Sales. Stay informed about event updates by RSVPing on Facebook. https://www.ocalafl.org/?splash=https%3a%2f%2fwww.facebook.com%2fevents%2f3777823658935727&____isexternal=true

*This movie is rated R, children under 17 must be accompanied by an adult. View discretion is advised.

 

The Tuscawilla Art Park is located at 513 NE 5th Street, next to the historic Ocala Union Station. The park was built in 2016 and created in partnership with numerous artists and artisans, community groups, and private donors with the intention of providing an inspiring space for residents and guests of all ages to enjoy. Park visitors will find botanical plants, public art, and unique infrastructure including a stage, plazas, and wandering pathways through the three-acre park.

Each Spring, the Tuscawilla Art Park hosts the Spring Art Park Series featuring a musical concert in the park. In the past, the series has featured performances from Ethio-American artist Meklit, classical contemporary artist Simply Three, cellist and singer-songwriter Ben Sollee and indie bands Kindo and Little Tybee.

For more information: Ocala Cultural Arts | 352-629-8447 | artinfo@ocalafl.org

OCALA, Fla. (Feb. 24, 2021) – The City of Ocala is hosting a free tire disposal event Saturday, March 13, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Disposal locations will be at the corner of NE 14th Street and NE Eighth Avenue and the Hampton Aquatic Fun Center located at 255 NW Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Tires generated by businesses will not be accepted and there is a limit of 10 tires per resident. This service is for residents living within the city limits. A driver’s license listing a city address may be requested.

For more information, please contact the City of Ocala Residential Sanitation Division at 352-351-6697.

The City of Ocala Recreation and Parks Department will host four summer camps June 1 through July 30. Summer camp program offerings will be as follows:

Lily’s Leaping summer camp at Lillian F. Bryant Community Center, 2200 NW 17th Pl.
City Kids summer camp at E.D. Croskey Recreation Center, 1510 NW Fourth St.
Junior and senior summer camp at Discovery Center, 701 NE Sanchez Ave.
Junior Historians summer camp at Fort King National Historic Landmark, 3925 E. Fort King St.

City Kids and Lily’s Leaping summer camps will offer a new fun theme each week. Discovery Center summer camps provide opportunities for curious young scientists to learn more about the world around them. Junior Historians summer camp will explore local history and nature with young adventurers.

Detailed information about each camp, including how to register, can be found at www.ocalafl.org/summercamp. Fees and participant ages vary per program. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the following safety precautions will be in effect for day camp operations:

Guidelines for drop-off and pick-up protocols must be observed by all participants
Parents/guardians will not be permitted to enter the buildings
Temperature and health screenings at drop-off
Where practical, children will be seated six-feet apart and groups will be limited to 10 or less
All children and staff will be required to wear cloth face coverings

Camp registration begins Monday, March 1 for City residents. General registration for non-residents opens Thursday, April 1. Parents or guardians can register online via ActiveNet or by phone. Registration will be on a first come, first served basis.

For more information, please call the City of Ocala Recreation and Parks Department at 352-368-5517.

(NAPSI)—At a time when their efforts were desperately needed, organizations helping to combat the effects of the coronavirus, champion equality and diversity, and provide medical care for those in need headlined this year’s .ORG IMPACT Awards. The awards, presented by Public Interest Registry, recognize organizations that are healing, helping, and inspiring others around the world.

Days for Girls International was the recipient of the .ORG of the Year Award for its efforts to promote health for millions of women and girls and prevent the spread of COVID-19 through its MasksForMillions Campaign. “Every day, Days for Girls is empowering women and girls to achieve their dreams by providing critical education and health resources to those who need them,” said Jon Nevett, the CEO of Public Interest Registry, which acts as operator of the 10 million-plus .ORGs around the world.

Other .ORG of the Year recipients included Kayla Cares 4 Kids—an organization Kayla Abramowitz founded at age 11—that collects and donates entertainment and educational items to children’s hospitals nationwide, and Change Labs, which promotes diversity, inclusion, and equity by increasing the number of Native-owned small businesses operating in Native communities. “Their work is a critical part of providing equity and opportunity to Native Americans seeking to achieve their dreams by becoming small business owners,” said Nevett.  Continue reading

(NAPSI)—With more than half of the state’s third graders having experienced tooth decay, the Tooth Fairy is canvassing the state—virtually—to help improve the dental health habits of her young friends, in hopes of a cavity-free Washington.

“Children who experience tooth decay are more likely to miss school, have lower academic success, experience nutritional and speech development issues… and over time, become more susceptible to systemic inflammation, which may limit growth and development. It can also result in an increased risk for lifelong dental problems,” explains Abbie Goudarzi, DDS, a licensed dentist and Delta Dental consultant. “It’s really unacceptable that more than half of our state’s third graders have tooth decay, a number that’s even higher in many rural and BIPOC communities.”

To help address the issue, the Tooth Fairy is making virtual appearances in classrooms and community-based youth organizations statewide as part of her interactive pediatric dental health education program, The Tooth Fairy Experience, designed to make dental health education fun for students in kindergarten through second grade.

The free 30-minute interactive presentations led by the Tooth Fairy are customized for each learning environment—including a storybook reading, fun teeth facts, proper brushing techniques, tooth science experiment, dental health hand puppets and a sugar demonstration. It’s all aimed to improve dental health behaviors of kids as they enter their cavity-prone years, and to spur regular dental exams—which were down 17 percent statewide last year for 5-10-year-olds, claims data from the state’s largest dental benefits provider reveal. Continue reading

Economic crisis, Businessman using mobile smartphone analyzing sales data and economic graph chart that is falling due to the corona virus crisis, Covid-19, stock market crash caused.

(NAPSI)—When it comes to gathering information to make an investment decision, investors have access to a variety of online information sources, from investment platforms to news and social media. No matter where you get your trading insights, know this: Where there is opportunity, there is also risk. Stock markets go up and they go down—and the steeper the rise or the fall, the easier it can be to derail a long-term strategy with a snap, emotionally driven decision.

Fortunately, you can use these tips to keep emotions in check.

1.Be mindful. Mindfulness can be helpful, even with investing. Before you make an investment decision, ask yourself whether an investment aligns with your financial goals. Small-dollar investments based on hype around a security might turn into big gains, but they can just as easily turn into big losses.

2.Mitigate your risk. Make sure your investment decision involves a level of risk you, not necessarily others, are comfortable with. Some people have the means to take risky bets, but many do not. Short-term trading in a volatile market carries significant risk of loss. Above all, if you seek short-term returns, don’t sacrifice money you cannot afford to lose. Remember that diversification—spreading out your investments both across and within different asset classes—can help you manage your risk.

3.Consider your source. Some companies offer tools that analyze or aggregate information from social media sources to help investors make investment decisions. Depending on how it is presented, this social sentiment information—particularly real-time discussion platforms and buy/sell indicators driven by social sentiment—can lead to impulsive investment decisions, which can be a risky way to approach investing.  Continue reading

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