Coronavirus Florida: In a spiral of unemployment, how much is too much to offer for layoffs? – News – The Palm Beach Post

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Coronavirus Florida: In a spiral of unemployment, how much is too much to offer for layoffs? - News - The Palm Beach Post

The debate about how much to give to Floridians who have been made unemployed in the wake of the coronavirus shutdown is too much for union leaders and labor advocates who still think of what they say is the dramatic reform of Florida’s unemployment insurance system when Scott was governor in 2011.

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The ink was hardly dry on a $ 2.1 trillion US-Senate bill of financial aid approved by the US Senate on Thursday as debate broke out in Florida’s political circles: How much is too much to provide for layoffs and business owners who sacrificed revenue and livelihoods to stop the

This is a week of up to $ 600 for up to four months, available to alleviate part of the wage loss to the tens of thousands of government employees who have lost their jobs, and possibly hundreds of thousands of others. who is as well.

Seems like a surreal conversation, but it was there on Thursday.

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“When this crisis is over, we want everyone to return to the workforce and we should not create the wrong incentive to not work,” said Rick Scott of the Florida GOP. “Simply put, using taxpayer dollars to pay people more for not working than what they would get if they were back at work is just silly. This will significantly hamper economic recovery. “

One congressional Democrat said the claim was “offensive” to the unemployed.

“It’s insulting to say that people don’t want to work and just want to go check,” said Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of the Republic of Miami.

It’s back and forth, too familiar to union leaders and labor advocates who still think about their words about the dramatic reform of Florida’s unemployment insurance system when Scott was governor in 2011. They say Scott took the state’s 32-weekly count of unemployment benefits: and facilitating denial of employer benefits.

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Until the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida’s unemployment benefits exceeded $ 275 per week, among the lowest in the country. The maximum number of eligible weeks is 12, and they bind with North Carolina at the worst price in the country.

According to the US Department of Labor, only 11% of unemployed Floridians are currently receiving benefits, and it is also one of the lowest recipients.

And even with the pending approval of the US Parliament on Friday, workers who are unemployed due to the closure of large segments of the Florida economy are afraid.

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“I wonder where I can get money for my dining table for my kids,” said Maxine Jackson, a five-year-old single mother who was laid off last week for housekeeping at the St. Regis Bal Harbor Resort. in Bal Harbor. “We need help right now.”

Jackson is one of over a million members of the Florida AFL-CIO and one of 90% of all hospitality workers who have lost their jobs due to a coronavirus pandemic.

“The Florida unemployment system has broken, so badly,” said Rich Templin, director of policy and public policy at the Florida AFL-CIO. “The design broke it back in 2011.”

US Representative Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, agreed.

“Florida has the lowest and most restrictive unemployment benefits following actions taken in this state when Senate Scott was governor of this state,” he said in a conference call Thursday.

Deutch and other South Florida Democrats, including a former mayor and former Florida state lawyer, blasted Scott in a speech Thursday saying that Floridians are now paying the price for his dramatic cuts to the state’s unemployment benefit scheme while he was governor.

But supporters of Scott’s amendments say that changes were made in an effort to grow Florida’s economy after the 2008 financial crisis. It was part of Scott’s commitment to job growth, which included making unemployment insurance more affordable for employers.

“In 8 years, 1.7 million jobs were added and more than unemployed after he left,” said Chris Hartline, Scott’s communications director, on the success of the plan.

But union members said Scott’s plan favored companies at the expense of employees, limited benefits and made them difficult to enforce. Today, given the massive layoffs caused by the coronavirus pandemic, cracks in Scott’s plan are visible, they said.

“It’s the same crisis that all of those who have been made redundant have experienced, but they have experienced it alone,” Templin said of two-thirds of workers who, according to him, are not eligible for benefits today, based on Scott’s amendments. “There are now hundreds of thousands of people crying for help. This is the moment when [current CEO Rick] DeSantis needs to step up and be a hero. “

Hartline said federal law supersedes state law and allows the removal of some Florida restrictions. It provides that benefits can be extended to affected workers, as well as consultants or self-employed, he said. He also said that money would be made available more quickly and without the current requirement that the recipient actively seek work.

While this may sound good on paper, AFL-CIO members point out that state restrictions still prevent many Floridians from becoming unemployed. They claim that online applications can take three to four hours to complete, system crashes regularly, and applicants are still forced to prove they are actively looking for work – even thinking that some people live in cities with shelters. order.

It’s just too frustrating for Joseph Palma, a customer service employee who was laid off last week at Miami International Airport.

“Everyone needs to be together,” he said, hoping DeSantis would help Florida employees. I am very scared. My final reward is coming tomorrow for less than $ 500. “

Hartline said the new recovery package is 880 pages long and lawmakers are trying to understand and implement it as quickly as possible. He said it addresses some of the problems Palma and others have experienced.

“During this crisis, we don’t want people looking for work and interviewing when they are expected to be home,” he said. “You are currently using the unemployment system and the safety net that it should be.”

But some argue that Scott may not have the best interests of employees at heart and that he has previously blamed unemployed workers for his circumstances.

Scott tweeted on Thursday: “I am in favor of expanding the unemployment insurance program. It is the best and fastest way to get money for the people who need it most. But we should not create a system with higher unemployment insurance coverage.”

This reiterated what the conservative think tanks have claimed.

“Unemployment insurance provisions in the CARES Act threaten the American workforce,” says Heritage Action for America, a subsidiary of the Heritage Foundation. “Instead of protecting workers, they are creating a situation where workers are being made redundant rather than remaining in work during this pandemic,” created the economic downturn. “

AFL-CIO members said Scott’s claims would be ridiculous if they weren’t already crying.

“It’s so cynical to say something like that,” said Wendi Walsh, Unite Here Local 355 secretary. “These are all incredibly hard working people who often work two to three jobs.”

Johnson, who was laid off last week, couldn’t agree.

“We’re not lazy,” he said. “We have just been laid off.”

Both the AFL-CIO, which represents more than 500 unions, and a group of Democratic Florida congressmen have now called on DeSantis to increase and repair the system.

Requests include:

– abandonment of work and job-search requirements and compulsory waiting time at break-out;

– Increase workers’ unemployment during the outbreak to 26 weeks.

– Developing specific COVID-19 guidelines for access to State unemployment benefits, providing maximum flexibility.

– Increase maximum bonuses to ensure sufficient coverage.

Hartline said leaders understand people’s desperate situations and that many are likely to need financial help for the current 12 weeks of the state.

“It’s a crisis where a huge number of people are out of work overnight and they have no way to return to the economy until at least the crisis begins,” he said. “Sometimes we can start turning it back on, but the theory behind this is to do everything we can.”

The Florida AFL-CIO has little faith in Scott’s help. But they hope DeSantis comes on the record – and quickly.

“We were seeing a disaster,” Templin said. “The system folds into itself.”

@WendyRhodesFL

wrhodes@pbpost.com

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