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Friday's Daily Pulse

Florida weekly unemployment claims top 9,000

Florida has seen slightly higher first-time unemployment claims during the past two weeks, but the numbers remain well below levels earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday reported that an estimated 9,082 new jobless claims were filed in the state during the week that ended July 24. The estimate was down from a revised count of 9,970 claims for the week ending July 17. However, the revised count for the week of July 17 was up from an initial estimate of 8,808 claims. [Source: News Service of Florida]

Business BeatBusiness Beat - Week of July 30th

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Florida test scores fall, with the ‘COVID slide,’ steepest in math, FSA data shows

Florida students struggled more on the state’s standardized tests this spring compared to counterparts tested before the pandemic struck, with scores dropping most sharply in math, according to data posted online Thursday by the Florida Department of Education. On the math section of the Florida Standards Assessments, for example, 53% of the fourth-graders scored at or above grade level compared to 64% in 2019, the last time the state-administered its series of exams in math, reading, science and social studies. [Source: Orlando Sentinel]

Florida’s back-to-school sales tax holiday begins this weekend

Get ready to shop till you drop starting this weekend as the Florida launches its annual Back-To-School Sales Tax Holiday, before students head back to school. This year’s tax holiday runs for 10 days. It begins Saturday, July 31 and runs through Monday, August 9. Retailers anticipate a surge in shopping since kids students who stayed home for online learning last year now need new clothes, shoes, backpacks and other supplies. [Source: CBS Miami]

Is Red Tide hurting Tampa Bay tourism?

The ongoing Red Tide crisis has some vacationers reconsidering or reshaping trips to the Tampa Bay region. More than 1,600 tons of dead marine life have been scooped up in or near Tampa Bay waters this season. Beachgoers report leaving with coughs, itchy eyes and scratchy throats. Local and state officials have called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to issue a state of emergency and allocate additional funds to the cleanup efforts. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]

ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:

› Jacksonville Jazz Festival announces 40th anniversary lineup
Jeffery Osborne, Sheila E. and George Benson will headline the 40th anniversary Jacksonville Jazz Festival Downtown this fall, the city announced July 29. The event, sponsored by the city Division of Sports and Entertainment, is Sept. 29 to Oct. 3. Osborne headline the festival Oct. 1 with additional performances by Theo Croker ‘BLK2LIFE’; Let’s Ride Brass Band; and Marcus Click, according to a city news release and the festival website.

› Sarasota County distributes $1 million in rental aid as end of eviction moratorium looms
With a federal eviction moratorium set to expire this weekend, Sarasota County officials announced Thursday that nearly $1.1 million in aid has been distributed to renters through a federal program. Sarasota launched its rental assistance program on May 5 with a $13.2 million allotment from the federal government, and since then 180 households have received aid.

› Florida pharmaceutical company wins FDA approval for study of Alzheimer's and dementia drug
Alzamend Neuro has received permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to move forward with a Phase 1 clinical study of AL001, a treatment for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In a statement released to investors Wednesday afternoon, CEO Stephan Jackman thanked the FDA for its expediency and says, “We are advancing the process and expect that the first patient will be dosed in September 2021.”

› U.S. Capitol Police plan to open a Tampa office. Why?
One of the first two field offices for the U.S. Capitol Police will open in Tampa in the coming weeks, the beginnings of a plan to substantially expand the agency’s geographic footprint beyond Washington, D.C. Meant to bolster the agency’s ability to assess threats and provide security for members of Congress and their offices, according to the Capitol Police and members themselves, the expansion has drawn mixed reactions from politicians.

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› Spirit Airlines launching flights from South Florida to Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Spirit Airlines is launching nonstop flights to a new destination in November: Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Starting Nov. 17, 2021, passengers will be able to fly on Spirit Airlines to a new airport on the outskirts of the Honduran capital city from Miami International Airport, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

› Panama City to maintain property tax rate for second year in a row
Panama City commissioners have staved off property tax rate hikes for another year. At Tuesday's meeting, the commission set a millage ceiling at 4.999, retaining the millage rate from fiscal year 2020-2021. "The commitment from the City Commission and the mayor was to drive down the millage rate," said City Manager Mark McQueen. "We're very glad to note that it will not go up and confident that it will continue to go down."

› Dolly Llama Waffle Master plans 1st Florida artisan waffle, ice cream shop in Ponte Vedra Beach
Serenity and inner peace, not to mention fun, can be found in unexpected places, say like an artisanal waffle and ice cream dessert shop in Northeast Florida. Josh and Wendy Popkin are bringing The Dolly Llama Waffle Master home to Ponte Vedra Beach from Los Angeles, where the concept debuted in 2017. The Ponte Vedra Beach shop will be the first Dolly Llama location not only in Florida but also in the Eastern United States.

› Bill introduced for $24.67 million in incentives for Jacksonville Trio renovation
A bill to authorize an almost $24.67 million taxpayer incentives package for SouthEast Development Group LLC’s planned renovation of the historic Laura Street Trio is moving through City Council. Council President Sam Newby introduced the legislation July 27 at the request of the Downtown Investment Authority.