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Last Call for 4.7.20 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

A digest of the day’s politics and policy while the bartender refreshes your drink.

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

The state’s unemployment system has been unable to handle the unprecedented number of Floridians seeking jobless benefits.

The Department of Economic Opportunity is working to increase capacity for the CONNECT website, which has continuously buckled from the load. In the interim, Gov. Ron DeSantis has authorized DEO to accept paper applications and conscripted state employees to help with increased call volume.

Florida’s Democratic members of Congress have some other recommendations to help the Governor to right the ship. Chief among them is a massive expansion of Florida’s meager benefits package.

In a letter to DeSantis, the delegation asked DeSantis to increase the length of unemployment benefits from 12 weeks to 26 weeks and bump the payout “significantly” from its current max of $275.

That’s on top of calling on DeSantis to take advantage of the federal coronavirus relief bill to increase the duration of state benefits by 13 weeks.

They also joined state-level Democrats in asking for claims to be made retroactive to the application date, which proponents say is necessary since the state now has a six-figure backlog of applications.

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“Flattening the curve” requires everyone to do their part, but that’s hard to do behind bars.

The Florida Legislative Black Caucus wants the DeSantis administration to make an effort to halt the spread of COVID-19 in state prisons, not just for the 96,000 inmates but the 23,000 correctional workers.

FLBC cited the Department of Corrections report stating that, as of Monday, four inmates and 29 correctional officers statewide had already tested positive.

“While Secretary [Mark] Inch has indicated that the Department of Corrections has taken proactive measures to combat the spread including halting visitation and attempting to follow the Center for Disease Control guidelines, we believe it is nearly impossible to regulate and maintain a 6 feet span of social distancing and continuous disinfecting guidelines in our correctional facilities spread across the state,” the caucus wrote in a letter to the Governor.

“We are also concerned that medical staff may not have sufficient staffing or equipment to combat and contain a potential outbreak within our prisons.”

FLBC urged additional action, including the “compassionate medical release” of nonviolent offenders over 60 and those with underlying medical conditions. Those populations are the most likely to suffer serious medical complications, including death, if they contract the virus.

The caucus also recommended releasing inmates who are near the end of their sentence to reduce overcrowding in the state’s 143 correctional institutions.

The recommendations aren’t unprecedented, FLBC notes, pointing to similar measures enacted by California and Texas, both of which outrank Florida in population and incarceration rate.

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One of the earliest victims of the coronavirus outbreak was professional sports.

Major League Baseball pushed back Opening Day to mid-May, the NCAA canceled March Madness, and the road to the Masters became a dead end — during the Florida swing, no less.

But there may yet be a professional sporting event in Florida soon if Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears gets his way.

On Tuesday, Beshears reached out to UFC President Dana White on Twitter to let him know the Sunshine State was willing to accommodate the mixed martial arts league.

White had previously announced that UFC was working to secure a private island to continue holding matches as the coronavirus pandemic marches on, leading most states to put in place stay-at-home orders and block events of 10 or more people, per CDC guidelines.

While matches would be closed to spectators, the number of fighters, film crews, and medical personnel required for the production would far surpass that number.

UFC wouldn’t be the first production to head to Florida to weather the pandemic. Last weekend, the state served as the venue for WWE’s WrestleMania 36, which was taped in Orlando (sans audience) after previously being booked for Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.

Coronavirus Numbers

Positive cases:

— 14,302 FL residents (+237 since 10 a.m. Tuesday)

— 445 Non-FL residents (+6 since 10 a.m.Tuesday)

Origin:

— 1,233 Travel related

— 2,677 Contact with a confirmed case

— 840 Both

— 9,552 Under investigation

Hospitalizations:

— 1,894 in FL

Deaths:

— 296 in FL

Evening Reads

China reports no Covid-19 deaths for first time” via BBC News

Donald Trump’s top health officials predict diminished coronavirus death toll via Quint Forgey of POLITICO

America’s most influential coronavirus model just revised its estimates downward. But not every model agrees. via William Wan of The Washington Post

Mortgage forbearance requests jump nearly 2,000% as borrowers seek relief during coronavirus outbreak via Diana Olick of CNBC

U.S. airlines want a $50 billion bailout. They spent $45 billion buying back their stock. via Allan Sloan of The Washington Post

Senate could push through more small business aid within days, Marco Rubio says via CNBC

Ron DeSantis brings in doctors to tout malaria drug for COVID-19 treatment via Renzo Downey of POLITICO

Ron DeSantis says one thing, then says another, and mayors ask for clarity via Matt Dixon of POLITICO

Study: Florida, Nevada may be hit hardest by coronavirus economic shock via Reuters

NFIB’s Small Business Optimism Index plummets via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

How is Florida’s broken unemployment system hurting people? Let us count the ways via Graham Brink of the Tampa Bay Times

Pressure builds to make Florida’s jobless claims retroactive via The Associated Press

Inside Florida’s frenzied, failed dash to dole out $600 million in no-bid mask deals via Mary Ellen Klas and Ben Wieder of the Miami Herald

Coronavirus is not Kathleen Passidomo’s first crisis, only the most recent via Andrew Meachem of Florida Politics

I resisted masks. Now I don’t shop without one. via Sonja Isger of the Palm Beach Post

Tensions flare at Brevard Commission meeting over COVID-19 and emergency powers via Dave Berman of Florida Today

Sheriff’s office torn by school massacre now split by virus via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press

First Coast News employees furloughed via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union

Property owners challenge Panhandle beach closure via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida

Regulator opens door to UFC events amid coronavirus via News Service of Florida

Four Seasons Resort lays off 835 people, state records show via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel

Quote of the Day

“As we begin to see even greater pressure being put on our health care system, our firefighters, our police, our paramedics, we must be doing all we can to ensure that they can go to work each day knowing that their children are safe.” — Rep. Vance Aloupis, calling for the state to provide child care for Florida’s first responders

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