Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried asserted Thursday the governor and state Cabinet members should have been jointly coordinating the response to the coronavirus pandemic, as a new report showed another 173,731 first-time unemployment claims were filed last week in Florida.
Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat, said at the end of a Cabinet meeting that Gov. Ron DeSantis, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General Ashley Moody should have met more than once since Feb. 4.
“In the most critical nearly four months of this pandemic, this Cabinet has been left in the dark,” Fried argued.
DeSantis didn’t reply to Fried during the teleconference meeting, but Patronis jumped in to defend the governor, who has spearheaded the state’s coronavirus-related efforts. Patronis compared favorably the state’s response to the pandemic to the actions of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and highlighted a task force created by DeSantis to help reopen the economy.
“We will persevere, but we will be stronger and at the same time making sure that we’re looking out for the state’s finances and our taxpayer dollars,” Patronis said. “So, look, you (DeSantis) have my support. I appreciate everything you’ve done to see us through these turbulent waters.”
Moody, also pointing to the task force that provided recommendations that DeSantis loosely followed, added that her office has been “in constant communications with the relevant agencies. They’ve been amazingly responsive.”
The task force, dominated by elected officials and leaders of lobbying groups and large businesses, included Patronis and Moody — but not Fried.
The teleconference Thursday, which dealt with a wide range of issues such as buying conservation land, was the first time DeSantis and the Cabinet have met since Feb. 4.
Fried had unsuccessfully requested DeSantis schedule updates for the Cabinet from state agencies, as the virus has killed more than 2,300 people, tax revenues have plummeted, the unemployment rate has soared and people have been frustrated in trying to get unemployment benefits.
“These agenda requests are made in good faith and were not acknowledged, let alone fulfilled,” Fried said. “That’s a real shame for everyone who deserves the truth. Floridians expect our government to be united, especially during this time of unprecedented challenges to the state that we all love.”
Fried, who has increasingly locked horns with DeSantis during the pandemic, appeared in the Cabinet meeting room for Thursday’s meeting, while the other three statewide officials participated remotely. The governor’s office said Wednesday the meeting would be held by phone because of health and safety concerns.
The meeting came as the U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday unemployment applications have surpassed 40 million nationwide since the pandemic put the brakes on the economy in mid-March.
Nationally, 2.1 million new claims were filed last week, down from 2.44 million the prior week.
For Florida, the 173,731 in new claims was a decrease from 225,404 the prior week. The state Department of Economic Opportunity on Friday announced a 12.9 percent state unemployment rate in April, representing 1.218 million Floridians qualifying as unemployed.
Meanwhile, the state’s workforce has dropped by 893,000 people, from about 10.3 million in March to 9.4 million in April.
Fried said many Floridians have given up trying to get benefits because of problems with the unemployment system.
“They don’t have four to six hours every single day to go onto the unemployment system, to be waiting online, to be talking to call center employees who are frustrated because they too don’t have the right answers to give, and they are frustrated,” Fried said after the meeting.
DeSantis has upped the pace of reopening businesses statewide since restaurants and retailers were first allowed to operate with 25 percent indoor occupancy on May 4.
“I couldn’t believe the response I got from Northwest Florida when you (DeSantis) opened,” said Patronis, whose family has long owned a restaurant in Panama City. “I never heard the sigh of relief of people feeling to get back normal. And then what we saw, we saw people come back to work wearing masks, taking extra precautions to be able to get back to work because of the environment that we’re in.”
DeSantis has expanded the allowed occupancy in restaurants to 50 percent, has invited professional sports teams to train and play in empty stadiums and called for youth activities to resume. Meanwhile, Universal Orlando has gotten local approval to reopen with limited attendance in June, while Walt Disney World is planning to let guests back in with reservations in July.
From March 15 to Tuesday, the state Department of Economic Opportunity reported receiving nearly 2.18 million unemployment claims, of which more than 1.73 million were considered “unique.” The difference is due to duplicates or incomplete paperwork, according to the state.
Of the unique claims, more than 1.6 million had been processed as of Tuesday, with 941,338 eligible for state assistance and 129,358 eligible for federal benefits. Another 403,712 had been ruled ineligible. The state administers the federal benefits.
On Thursday, state Rep. Margaret Good, D-Sarasota, called on U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia to oversee the distribution of federal benefits because of problems at the state level.
“In just a few days, rent and mortgages are due and we still have constituents who have not received any federal unemployment benefits,” said Good, who is running for Congress. “Twice now, I have asked the U.S. Secretary of Labor to intervene and provide oversight since the state does not seem to have mechanisms or systems in place to appropriately disperse the money.”
The Department of Economic Opportunity has paid out $3.5 billion in benefits, of which $955 million was from the state.
–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida
Why does this surprise anyone he works off the Trump playbook. Vote him out when hes up for Election. NOT getting my vote this time
Only Republicans play politics with people’s lives and pat each on other the back as people keep dying. They point fingers at so and so for doing this while they did that. At a time when we should all unify, the clown in the White House encourages the actions of the most vile of humanity and those politicians that attach their horse to his cart are an extension of him. History will write about this moment and about the truth of what was known and not known and by whom. They will also write how every POTUS dealt with crisis during their administration and how all of them united a public full of differences. All of them, except Trump. He thrives on division. His tweets and retweets encourage people to do things without fear of consequence.
CB from PC says
I would say the DEMOCRAT Mayors of the burned out cities are literally playing politics with lives and business owner’s livelihood.
Who is protecting the interests of those who do not participate in destroying?
The armed cops have been ordered to stand down. Reminds me of Mayor Dinkins watching 3 nights of Bushwick torched.
Another fine example of Democrat leadership.
None of them are saying it outright, this is a recession in full swing, 2018Q4 the Dow crashed for 3 solid months, that lie was called a Bear market. The rebound in 2019 led to Coronavirus 2020 crash. The last 1 1/2 years this lie has perptuated, they used impeachment scare to not only tank the Dow, but shit the Government down for a month. And then Coronavirus crash of 2020, And here we are, a State Unemployment system that has collapsed and really has been bankrupt since the dot com bust of Clinton & Bush, never was replenished adequately during Bush prosperity to economic collapse on W & Obama. 12 years has elapsed since that. The Sate Unemployment system is where the Federal Supplemental Unemployment money is sitting, it’s undistributed & earning interest (at least that much good can be said about this fire drill). They’re hoping that the economy gets rolling again and they will try to avoid paying out any money in the system. Post Coronavirus and employment, you’ll have to prove it in the aftermath. They’re banking that many will give up. The interest being earned, that’s what the State of FL Unemployment system never had in it to pay out. Every state level man made safety net has been bankrupt for 2 decades. There was a day when 39 weeks was an unemployment that could be extended. Today, if the state gets to you in time, you’ll be fortunate to get 16 weeks, at least that’s what it was around 2014 for a $ 275/week benefit. The politicians & handlers are lying at every turn to cover up this mess. The Dow is actually rebounding, ask yourself why ? And in a nutshell, it’s where several Congressional types have reinvested when the market bottomed on March 2020. It’s where all their money is and like the rebound & selloff of 2019 & early 2020 was, there are those insider’s trading and profiting off this mess. They have the knowledge of where the money is going to be made & market manipulations. Fuel prices dropped, they’re now creeping back up and the reality is, this economy is not back to the employment it was. See when they drag their heels on unemployment claims, that becomes a lie about the monthly unemployment report, they are back to manipulating those numbers again. This is criminal and COVID-19 was a scam. Ask your self why there were 21 flu related Pneumonia deaths in the CDC’s last reported data of 2018, they should already have compiled & released 2019 data. Yet Flagler county has had 4 deaths of Coronavirus and nobody can tell you how many flu pneumonia deaths have happened in 2020. Why ? this is all entered into a database to be uploaded to CDC, as one dies, a death certificate is issued, has to have a cause of death on it. So this is a real time count that they can have with a single SQL query. They can’t go back & revisit cause of death for their coding, there is no audit trail, they’ve cremated those bodies after whatever test & autopsies they’ve been put thru. Next time you see someone accused of stealing food from a grocery store because they’re hungry, ask yourself who the real thieves really are. Most of them are the well paid in this Coronavirus scam.
I lived in Florida for 13 years I would like to know how is it that people can collect unemployment when they don’t pay into the system That’s all I’ve been hearing about here on them in the Midwest is Florida is collecting unemployment how is that so when I would live there I couldn’t collect unemployment when the schools were closed during the summer because I hadn’t paid into the system so how was it now that you people are doing this Could you kind of let me know because it seems to be a lot of falsehood media coming out of Florida these days.
Honest Truth says
Commissioner Fried we agree with you DeSantis is leaving the whole State of Florida in the dark about what is going on which appears at the directive of Donald Trump to downplay the virus facts and truth about what is really going on. All will be remembered when he is up for re-election. He definitely, Governor Cuomo who is direct, honest, and passionate about his State of NY insisting that people are required to wear masks out in public, not DeSantis he wants to act like let us get back to the economy and forget about human lives at stake. Disgrace.
Gus Rumpf says
Japan had 851 deaths in a pop. of 126.5M without implementing a lockdown. NY, NJ, MI & CA forced nursing homes to accept infected patients.
Enough of the crying from the left and GET THIS ENTIRE COUNTRY OPENED UP!
While I had been initially pleased with DeSantis’s early response to this crisis, I am appalled by the bungling of the unemployment situation and the early testing problems. I can definitely see why people call him “little Trump”. He’s got the incompetence and lying like Trump, but lacks the bluster.
CB from PC says
Glad to see someone in Sarasota is putting heat as to why Federal Unemployment benefits are held up.
I can tell you why.
The State of Florida has a
long history of cheapness and generally not wanting to give unemployment.
During the 2009 Charlie Crist days of the Financial Meltdown, the computer system could not handle the transaction volume.
But it was a mainframe based system which was much more reliable and less prone to transaction hanging than the current server based web interface system. Web Servers and the connections to application and database servers simply were not designed to, and cannot handle the Pandemic unemployment volume.
As far as Nikki Fried, the Agriculture Secretary,, her responsibilities include making sure food is available.
Why is there a shortage of beef at Florida based chains such as Publix? Have No problem getting it through a local butcher, and no rationing.
Why is Nikki crying about DeSantis?
Here is a hint:
“Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat”.
Dennis C Rathsam says
Nikki Fried… Another useless Democrate with a big mouth, & no solutions! Sometimes its better to sit and listen,and let them think you know nothing …Then to speak & remove all dought.
such a crybaby says
This is nothing more than a cry for attention. Unless you have been living under a rock, Gov. DeSantis has made numerous statements regarding the virus and everything related to it. Nikki Fried is only thinking of herself, typical Democrat characteristic.
Another Democrat spouting off instead of doing her job.