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Jackie Toledo calls for a pause in negative credit reporting amid coronavirus financial worries

Toledo said Floridians shouldn’t be punished for job losses they couldn’t control.

Rep. Jackie Toledo is calling on Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis to work with the Federal Trade Commission to postpone negative credit reporting.

Her request came after Florida’s unemployment application filings spiked 1,000% in just one week, far surpassing the state’s previous record for unemployment applications posted in 2009 amid the Great Recession.

“During the COVID-19 crisis, those who live paycheck to paycheck are suddenly seeing their incomes stop. If people are unable to pay their bills or outstanding debts to provide for their families; this will have a long lasting effect on their credit, and the economy. The long-term burden of this crisis should not be on the backs of the people who are doing the right thing,” Toledo said.

Toledo sent Patronis a letter Thursday calling for the credit reporting pause and blocking credit reporting agencies from “assessing derogatory credit marks for three months.”

“Punitive measures on credit must stop until more jobs are restored, and our economy can return to normal,” Toledo wrote.

“As you very well know, credit scores determine worthiness and responsibility for assets and liabilities such as a mortgage and car insurance. At a time when many Floridians and Americans do not know where their next paycheck will come from, lack of payment will spark a devastating chain reaction, affecting the credit and livelihood of millions. Hard-working Floridians can be ruined for 7 years or more for lack of income at no fault of their own.”

More people filed unemployment claims in Florida last week than ever have before in the state.

More than 74,000 individuals applied, shattering Florida’s previous record of 40,403 set in 2009 as the state reeled from the Great Recession. The jobless reports also amounted to a massive jump from the previous week when 6,256 claims were filed.

The jump comes as businesses across the state were forced to either close or scale back. Hospitality and tourism workers lost jobs as venues canceled large events, restaurant workers found themselves out of work as their employers were forced to close dining rooms and other businesses faced hardship as Floridians opted to stay-in per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social distancing recommendations.

“Negative credit marks proliferates the challenges facing consumers by reducing a persons available credit, their purchasing power, and lengthens the time it will take a person to recover from the impacts of COVID-19,” Toledo wrote.

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And the situation could get worse.

Local governments throughout the state are lining up to issue stay-at-home orders, or some variation there of, which only increase the number of businesses forced to close their doors.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Tuesday that 21,000 Floridians had filed claims on Monday alone, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Others were unable to apply as problems with the website kicked some applicants out or locked their claims.

“Thousands, and potentially, millions of Floridians are depending on us to act,” Toledo concluded in her letter.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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