Jim Bonfiglio: Helping Florida’s working class, small businesses during COVID-19 pandemic

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The responsibility rests with all of us — I know we can and will rise to the challenge.

Palm Beach County will see a tsunami of unemployed in the next few months. Just on March 23, 2020, Florida received more than 21,000 unemployment applications, followed by 31,000 applications the next day.

Joe Henderson, a columnist with Florida Politics, blames former Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-led Legislature over the following years for our unemployed’s inability to pay their bills because they have made and have kept Florida unemployment benefits the stingiest in the nation ($275 maximum per week for a maximum of 12 weeks).

To quote Mr. Henderson: “That’s why, to borrow the Governor’s words, some people won’t be able to put food on the table. They won’t pay their rent, or their bills, or take care of their families. And that falls squarely on members of the Florida Legislature, past and present.”

With the wave of our unemployed already here and growing, and their anticipated inability to pay bills, what can we do to help those who have lost their income during this pandemic?

Kathryn Varn of the Tampa Bay Times writes that the Florida Supreme Court’s recent 10-page administrative order gave us some relief. Ms. Varn writes that the order appears to suspend, or at least give clerks the option to postpone, issuing writs of possession through April 17.

While encouraging, according to Ms. Varn, it has been applied haphazardly throughout Florida’s 67 counties. And the bottom line is that the request for a writ of possession comes at the end of a case when the homeowner or the tenant has lost his foreclosure or his eviction, and the Plaintiff is asking the court to kick the occupant out of the house.

I urge landlords and mortgage holders to grant their tenants and homeowners a month’s waiver for the rent and mortgage payment.

You will keep your property occupied so you will not have to incur the costs associated with an empty unit, you will give your occupant a month’s worth of breathing room, and in a month’s time, the money from the recent $2 trillion federal relief bill will reach your occupant and they should be able to get back on track with their payments.

I have taken that step with my tenant and have waived the rent due for April 2020, and I urge all Palm Beach County residential and commercial landlords and mortgage holders to take the same step.

Coronavirus has created a public health and economic crisis, the likes of which we have never seen. A spirit of empathy and small acts of kindness can help.

The responsibility rests with all of us — I know we can and will rise to the challenge.


Jim Bonfiglio is the former Mayor of Ocean Ridge and a Democratic candidate for Florida House District 89.

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One comment

  • Linda Dixon

    April 7, 2020 at 7:04 pm

    My son is a GIG worker for Uber. His typical weekly income ranges from 800-1000. Currently, he’s earning bet. 250-275 weekly which is not enough to survive on. FL does not provide Unemployment Benefits to GIG workers. However, under CARES Act, the Fed Gov’t. offers up to $600.00 per wk. My son has been unable to apply in FL and has not been able to get through over the phone with EO in FL. Can he not receive Federal help through the State? If anyone knows how to help, please provide any information here. Thank you. Linda

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