As all but three Florida counties enter Phase One of the state’s gradual reopening, a Senate Democrat has grave concerns.
Sen. José Javier Rodríguez sounded alarms Monday about how “working families” and small businesses will shoulder the burden of the reopening, including how testing and unemployment insurance both fall woefully short.
“The state’s economic recovery ‘plan’ looks no different than its task force composition with working families and small businesses left out while shouldering the risks of what’s to come,” the Miami-Dade Democrat declaimed.
Indeed, the task force meetings involved business interests and mostly Republican lawmakers largely workshopping roads to reopen, with labor effectively shut out of those calls along with prominent Democrats.
Despite Gov. Ron DeSantis repeatedly contends Florida has administered more than 400,000 tests, as the curve has flattened in most communities outside of prisons and long-term care facilities, Rodriguez doubts that testing is enough.
“How and when Florida will begin addressing the lack of adequate testing needs to be answered as a predicate to any phase of any ‘opening.’ Testing is still nowhere near where it should be, nor widely available for workplaces around the state. Moreover, employers are not required to have employees wear protective equipment as in other states,” he added, before pivoting to uncertainty faced by the hundreds of thousands of people rendered unemployed since March’s economic shutdown.
It should be noted that the current moves to reopen, described as “baby steps” in some quarters, are modest. Phase One includes limited-capacity openings of restaurants and retail businesses, with elective surgeries again allowed in hospitals.
The economy will still be in first gear, but Rodriguez also hammers the Governor for, as of now, requiring the unemployed to again have to prove, beginning Friday, that they are looking for a job.
As currently written, Phase One of the Governor’s reopening plan will not extend the past Friday executive order allowing Floridians to obtain unemployment benefits without confirming every two weeks they’re searching for work.
“Gov. DeSantis’ refusal to extend the waiver of the ‘work search’ requirement beyond May 9th means, as a condition for unemployment assistance, laid off or furloughed Floridians have to actively search for work — a perplexing proposition in hot zones where much of the service economy is still closed and employers are not required to adequately protect workers. Families who needed a bridge across this economic crisis are being cut off when they need it most,” Rodriguez asserted.
DeSantis hasn’t entirely closed the door on waiving the requirement again on a temporary basis.
Addressing Orlando reporters Saturday, DeSantis noted the original suspension of requirements was to “take stress off the system.”
While the Governor is confident in website fixes, he said he’s “fine with extending [the suspended work search requirement] if we need to.”
“If I have to waive it, I’ll waive it,” DeSantis said.