Florida blames bank after teachers' bonus checks bounce

Photo via Senator Jason Pizzo / Twitter

About 50 educators were unable to cash $1,000 bonus checks they received from the state, Florida Department of Education officials acknowledged Friday. The state is working to correct the mistake, agency spokesman Brett Tubbs told The News Service of Florida in an email. 

"A banking error by JPMorgan Chase impacted approximately 50 individuals of the 176,000 educators who received a disaster relief payment," Tubbs wrote. 

Educators who received the worthless checks have been identified and the bank "has indicated they will be reimbursing all penalties and fees" associated with the error, Tubbs said. 

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Providing bonus checks to teachers and principals using federal coronavirus relief money was a priority for Gov. Ron DeSantis during the 2021 legislative session that ended in April. The bonuses were intended to show appreciation for teachers who worked through the 2020-21 school year amid challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-North Miami Beach, called attention to the issue on Twitter with a photo of one of the educators’ bounced checks on Friday. 

"Teaching moment: The individual political benefit in spending $3.6 million to print and send thousands of checks with your name on it, is outweighed by the more efficient and fiscally responsible option of direct deposit," Pizzo wrote in a subsequent tweet, after the education department issued its explanation of the problem.