Floridians struggling since the start of the coronavirus pandemic are being forced to take jobs below their skill levels and at low wages as the state scales back unemployment assistance, opponents of reducing aid said Thursday.
Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, along with officials from the Florida AFL-CIO and the Florida People’s Advocacy Center embarked on a long-shot effort to get Gov. Ron DeSantis to reverse a decision to stop providing $300 a week in federal unemployment assistance starting June 26.
“We feel like we have no choice. We have to try, we have to try to convince the governor that this is the wrong move,” Rich Templin, legislative policy director for the Florida AFL-CIO, said during a videoconference. “And whether we convince him that it’s the wrong move politically, whether we convince him that it’s the wrong move economically, or whether we convince him that it is the wrong move morally, there are a lot of people out there who need help and need saving.”
Jim Riser, a chef from Boca Raton who has been self-employed for nearly two decades because of disabilities that include diabetes and herniated disks, said the effort to reverse the decision offers some “hope,” as he drew $16,000 from the federal government last year.
“It’s horrifying. I have worked in the culinary industry for 37 years of my life and can no longer do the job that I used to when I was younger,” Riser said. “This is causing me to have more anxiety than I can handle. But to give us three weeks to find a job that is capable of paying the bills is almost impossible.”
Eskamani said the overall number of people reaching out to her offices for assistance has eased from the peak of the pandemic in April 2020. But she said the crisis remains dire for people facing eviction and homelessness.
“The past situations where you were able to get some grace from mortgage companies or landlords, a lot of that has come to an end,” Eskamani said. “And so the unemployment system has really been the lifeline for a lot of folks. And the fact that they still can’t log in (to the online system). The fact that we have returned to work holds and other types of delays, has really made a bad situation worse. And cutting out these benefits are not going to help folks actually get back to work. If anything, (it) is going to make it more difficult to survive, because instead of looking for that suitable job, you’re going to be losing your home.”
State officials and business groups have pointed to the additional federal benefits as playing a role in difficulty drawing people back to work, particularly in tourism and leisure businesses. The U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday estimated Florida had 7,291 first-time unemployment claims filed during the week that ended May 29, down from a revised count of 9,882 the prior week. Those are the lowest weekly numbers since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
The state’s April unemployment rate was 4.8 percent, reflecting an estimated 487,000 Floridians out of work from a workforce of 10.24 million. The May rate will be released June 18.
DeSantis on Wednesday expressed concerns about inflation as he defended decisions to reinstate a “work search” requirement and to halt distribution of the federal money, which was scheduled to continue into September. The work-search rule, which had been suspended last year because of the pandemic, requires unemployment claimants to apply for five jobs a week.
“I think we have a path to, you know, to put a lot more people back to work, but I also worry about some of those macro signals that we’re seeing in the economy. And look, in the last, what 15 months, this federal government has added more to the debt than we’ve ever seen since World War II,” DeSantis said during an appearance in New Smyrna Beach.
DeSantis acknowledged the changes could cause the unemployment rate to temporarily tick up as more people return to the workforce. But he said across the state “every single person” with a business comes up to him “saying, ‘I need people. I want to hire. We need to hire more people,’” DeSantis said.
“So, I think what’s going to happen is, you know, we do have the job search requirements back in, I think the incentives are going to get more folks back in the workforce,” DeSantis continued. “But as you have more people look, you may see the rate go up, because some of the people who are kind of out aren’t counted. But then I think you’re going to see it go down.”
The state provides a maximum of $275 a week in unemployment assistance. State and business officials have contended that the combination of $275 a week in state aid and $300 a week in federal aid is competitive with weekly pay at many restaurants and other businesses, providing a disincentive for people to return to jobs.
But Templin said “the math doesn’t make sense” as many people receiving state assistance don’t get the $275 a week maximum, while about 120,000 people receiving federal relief don’t qualify for state assistance as they are self-employed and work gig jobs.
“That’s an hourly wage using a 40-hour work week of $7.50 per hour, far less than the minimum wage,” Templin said. “So, we’re being told that workers are not seeking employment, because they want to sit at home eating bonbons for less than the minimum wage. This is a completely false, mean-spirited narrative, not based in reality, and certainly not based on any sound policy consideration.”
–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida
Mike Cocchiola says
Republicans simply don’t care about you or me. Not one bit! They care only about being Republican and continuing their cultural war against our government and our democracy.
@mike…. cry me a river. We simply want people to take responsibility for themselves….We will gladly give a hand up…. but when you take on no responsibility for your situation and don’t try to do something about it, there is a problem. “Riser said. “This is causing me to have more anxiety than I can handle. But to give us three weeks to find a job that is capable of paying the bills is almost impossible.”” 3 weeks…. should have been looking for a job from the day one was lost…..
Most Companies were closed remember?
@steve….. take your mask off and come outside. We have been open for over a year now. The guy in the article just now started to look for a job and now that the gravy train is over wants everyone to feel sorry for him. On second thought… stay inside and wear two masks. You are safer there.
Unemployment assistance is suppose to be temporary not forever ! Dems do not want people to take care of themselves. Good work Gov. DeSantis ! People do take pride in themselves when employed. If you do not think you can find work in Florida at your desired hourly wage move to New York or somewhere else . Taxpayers are sick of this O’Biden mentality that the government will take care of you as the country goes bankrupt .
Well let’s see, there was a day when one was able to get 39 weeks and extensions from the State Unemployment Fund. That was 2000-2001-ish under Bush. By 2008-2009-ish the state of FL was down to 16 weeks of State Unemployment Fund. Here we are in 2020-2021-ish and the State Unemployment Fund was a 12 week benefit. Without the Federal Unemployment Funding being there, the State Unemployment Fund would’ve been used up early into the scam-demic. Truth of the matter is that the world is going bankrupt for the masses. Max $ 275/week is not life altering money if it even pays the bills that we know it won’t as inflation rises.
It’ll be interesting to see how the recent resignations in the Palm Coast City local government pan out. We’ll replace a mayor of Palm Coast at a cost of roughly $ 100K additional to the vote we paid for in Nov 2020. Morton the city manager, replaced with an interim city manager at the same price tag and we most likely get to pay for the next recruitment for that position.
I don’t know how anyone from the Governor on down can look at the State Unemployment Benefit and say with a straight face that it’s too much. If that’s the case, I challenge DeSantis to live off that without using his life savings & reserve. I bet he would be foreclosed & evicted at the first missed mortgage payment. Some talk a lot of nonsense when the pot of money they are paid from allows for them to just continue to bungle thru their own lives with a cushion like that.
DeSantis doesn’t need the benefits because he obtained an education and worked as a lawyer in JAG and now is the governor. If only people would follow his example they wouldn’t be needing handouts to survive. It’s about personal responsibility, not blaming everyone else for your lack of preparation for life and seeing which program you can live off for the rest of your life.
The reboot of 2020 is in full swing. Rebooting labor after draining their life savings. Guess what, they’ll have to start new jobs at the same lousy wages with no benefits, only that gasoline prices are now higher, so is everything else. 2020 pandemic was just another fraud & power grab. Imagine a virus so smart that it it would happen in an election year. The concept is the same as it was 2008-2009, ruin the economy, create financial hardship & chaos, inflation & the masses spend their way into a recovery of sorts and spin that as now prosperity, while wealth gaps continue to get bigger. Crime is up, becoming more & more violent. Same non-solutions, from the same failed leadership. Just the same formula towards a new normal.
That’s an interesting take. I dont agree with most of it but certainly know where you are coming from.
The days of a 40 hour work week with benefits are long gone. The reason employers can’t find anyone to work for them is the lack of decent pay, benefits, and hours. Corporate manipulations to avoid paying employees anything decent is coming back to bite them in the butt.
Riser said. “This is causing me to have more anxiety than I can handle. But to give us three weeks to find a job that is capable of paying the bills is almost impossible.” That’s part of the problem. You have not been looking for a job this whole time and not you think it is someone else’s fault. You should have been off your lazy ass the day you lost your job and should have been looking for one. That’s the problem with hand outs. Some people need to have incentive to get off there ass and take responsibility for themselves. Bet Riser voted for the feeble old man who is in office now.
Until recently many were not hiring but with Vaccinations etc. More jobs have come on line now.
@steve… I call Bullshit. The company I work for has been trying to hire throughout covid and the media hyped hysteria.. So were many others. And he states 3 week,,,, so he is just now starting now…?? Stop making excuses. This has been going on for months and months. As long as people are given handouts they will take no responsibility for themselves.
Are you this miserable in Real life or just when you are posting.
@Steve…. Actually Steve I am very happy. I refused to buy into the fear porn and hysteria that the media put out and lived my life as normal. Put a mask on to make others feel comfortable when going into a store but other than that life as normal. It’s funny what you resort to when you can’t stay on topic. Please go back inside and wear 2 or 3 masks, and hide in fear…. The world will be a better place.