Sen. Jose Javiér Rodríguez is praising Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to ease some restrictions on collecting unemployment in light of the economic impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The Department of Economic Opportunity finalized a waiver Tuesday releasing people from some work requirements while getting benefits. It won’t require beneficiaries to register online or show they’re available for work to collect unemployment. It’s retroactive to March 15th and is in effect until May 2nd.
“This emergency order addressing the work search requirements is a much needed step for out-of-work Floridians during this crisis, but it is only the first step as we try to address the inadequacies of the country’s worst unemployment insurance system,” Rodríguez said in a statement.
DEO Executive Director Ken Lawson said Monday his agency is handling an “unprecedented number” of unemployment applications as the state deals with coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Some people trying to file claims say they’ve had trouble getting connected.
“By virtue of this crisis, we are seeing an unprecedented number of individuals applying for re-employment assistance. So I ask people to be very patient,” Lawson said.
DeSantis closed bars for 30 days on March 17th and closed dining rooms in restaurants for the duration of the state of emergency, which currently extends through May 8th. Tourist attractions like theme parks have also closed and hotels have also been closing. That’s all led to widespread layoffs and furloughs.
Alachua County and Gainesville have issued a stay-at-home order, effective Tuesday. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor is expected to also issue a stay-at-home order. Miami Beach issued one Monday. DeSantis has been reluctant to implement a statewide order, despite pressure from some Democratic lawmakers.
Rodríguez and other Democratic lawmakers, like House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee, are calling on the Governor to improve the state’s unemployment program to better assist people being hit financially by the public health crisis.
The maximum benefit a claimant can collect overall is $3,300. That’s $275 a week for a total of 12 weeks. The 12-week period is the lowest of any state and at $275, Florida has the fifth lowest maximum benefit in the U.S.
“I thank Director Lawson and his team for working quickly and hope to continue making improvements as quickly as possible,” Rodríguez said.