Joe Henderson: We hope Rob Bradley is right, but must prepare as if he’s wrong

Corona Virus Closes many Beaches
Bradley said he believes Florida can snap back quickly, but one person's "quickly" is another's "eternity."

I sure hope outgoing state Sen. Rob Bradley is correct in his belief that Florida “can snap back quickly” from the pandemic. Please be right.

Please.

And while you’re at it, please define “quickly.”

My point is not to nitpick Bradley, who told Andrew Meacham of Florida Politics, “Maybe I’m too much of an optimist, but I believe that Florida is going to be OK. This virus is awful. It’s taking a terrible toll on those directly affected, and it’s having a shocking effect on our economy. But I still believe in the fundamentals of Florida. I think we can snap back quickly.”

I wouldn’t for a second suggest Bradley had anything but the best intent in what he said. Maybe we could use a little optimism, but we also need some sober-eyed realism. And in a crisis like Florida faces now, one person’s “quickly” is another’s “eternity.”

For a state heavily dependent upon tourism and the service industry, “quickly” probably is, at best, wishful thinking.

I was out and about today for a routine appointment (practicing safe distancing). It was the first time in four days that my car left the driveway.

It was eerie to see how few cars on the road, or how many businesses are closed. Yes, many people are working remotely, but we also have seen the catastrophic unemployment numbers and the fiasco of filing for benefits.

And, oh yeah, people are dying.

We’re desperate for good news. When even a sliver of light comes out of New York or somewhere across the ocean, we embrace the hope.

But the pandemic has been described as a hurricane that is hitting all 50 states simultaneously. And we know how long it can take to “snap back” when one of those monsters hit.

Will tourists rapidly return and fill hotels and restaurants here? Eventually, yes, but many of those from other states face the same economic hardships we have here. It will take those folks time to recover.

Small businesses will have a frightful time trying to “snap back.” People who lost their jobs will see their savings dwindle, and just imagine living on Florida’s paltry $275 per week unemployment “benefit.”

I’ll tell you what does need to happen quickly. Gov. Ron DeSantis needs to convene the best and brightest minds he can find from both sides of the aisle. Then they need to meaningfully address the state’s embarrassingly cruel unemployment program.

Hard-working and dedicated people by the thousands and thousands face economic chaos, and it wasn’t their fault. Former Gov. Rick Scott designed Florida’s current unemployment system on the premise that you must deserve it if you’re out a job.

But then a pandemic struck.

Desperate now people must navigate a system designed to frustrate and deny them assistance. That’s something the government can and must fix. The argument over red-or-blue ideology doesn’t matter right now.

People are hurting, and that hurt could continue longer than anyone dares imagine.

Like I said up top, we all hope Rob Bradley is correct, but lawmakers need to assume he is wrong.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


One comment

  • Ron

    April 8, 2020 at 5:55 am

    “I’ll tell you what does need to happen quickly” says Joe. It must be a wonderful thing to be able to sit back and give advice without ever having to accept that you might be wrong. It must be empowering to prescribe solutions from a life long education in just one kind of medicine, the liberal kind. It must give one courage to tell officials just “what needs to happen quickly” without the worry of having to consider other points of view or without the fear that if your prescription is wrong there will be real and fearful consequences. Geee, I wish I was a columnist. Such a blessed condition.

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