As curve flattens in Tampa Bay, unemployment and housing concerns rise

Application for benefits
211 calls and Google search data reveal top concerns

The coronavirus’ spread may be slowing in Tampa Bay, but the economic woes it brought to the region aren’t.

A report released Wednesday by the Tampa Bay Partnership found that the downward trend in cases has come alongside increased worries over housing, food and jobs.

The report used local 211 call data and real-time insights from the Center for Analytics and Creativity at the USF Muma College of Business.

The data showed a 24% spike in calls over the past six weeks, and though coronavirus may have been at the root of the increase, residents were mainly looking for help managing its economic impacts, not getting tested.

 

The report also examined search engine usage in the region, finding that Floridians turning to the web to find COVID-19 testing has been on the downward trend since mid-March.

The situation is different in South Florida, which leads the state in COVID-19 related search engine queries — the region is the epicenter of the pandemic in Florida, with Miami-Dade County alone reporting more than 10,000 cases as of Wednesday.

Tampa Bay residents are Googling coronavirus testing at about half the rate of those in South Florida, analytics show. Tampa Bay Partnership hypothesizes lower search volume is due to a flattened curve in the region.

What hasn’t flattened? Searches for assistance navigating the economic fallout of the pandemic, unemployment benefits in particular.

Jobless benefits are a trending search statewide — Tampa Bay included — as the pandemic has forced many businesses to close their doors leading to a dramatic surge in unemployment.

Between March 15 and April 21, more than 1.7 million unemployment applications had been submitted to the Department of Economic Opportunity. The surge pushed the state’s online application system to the breaking point, leaving many still waiting for their first check.

As of Wednesday afternoon, DEO said it has verified about 675,000 unique claims, and 108,000 of them have been paid out — about one in six. Just over $143 million has been paid out.

Searches for food banks and housing assistance are also spiking in Tampa Bay, though they haven’t rocketed to the levels seen in other corners of the Sunshine State.

Southwest Florida leads the state in food insecurity concerns, according to Google data, followed by the Orlando area. Tampa ranks third.

Tampa Bay didn’t rank regional searches for housing issues, though data in the report shows many are Googling “eviction” and “rent assistance,” with each hitting their peak in the first week of this month.

The Tampa Bay Partnership produced the report in collaboration with Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, United Way Suncoast and USF Muma College of Business.

It is part of the organization’s State of the Region: COVID-19 Community Report series, which has also explored hospital capacity, the jobs market and other issues through the lens of the coronavirus pandemic.

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.


One comment

  • P

    April 22, 2020 at 2:46 pm

    I don’t think flattening the curve means what you think it does.

Comments are closed.


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