Florida Has 4th Worst Unemployment Recovery In Country

D'Ann Lawrence White

ACROSS FLORIDA — As recent outbreaks of the coronavirus in states like Florida, Texas and Arizona cause a new wave of shutdowns, MoveOn.org is calling on Congress to extend coronavirus emergency unemployment funding through the end of the year.

The petition has been signed by more than one million people so far.

Without an extension, unemployment benefits are set to expire on July 31.

"Many people who are laid off due to COVID-19 won't find work for a very long time, maybe never because some jobs lost today won't be coming back," reads the petition. "People will need time and resources to learn and develop a new skill. By ending the $600 per week additional unemployment assistance too soon, we will certainly be dooming people to tragic futures. This will have far-reaching ramifications. We need to look out for each other during these unprecedented times. Please let's help each other save and serve those who are in most need."

Over the past weeks, more than 47.1 million Americans have filed unemployment claims across the country due to layoffs and hours cut because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Currently, nearly 14 percent of the U.S. population have formally applied for benefits.

The petition asks that the coronavirus emergency $600 per week federal unemployment assistance be extended to at least Dec. 31.

As of June 28, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has paid 1,584,572 claimants a total of $8.19 billion in state and federal unemployment assistance. In all, 1.9 million people have applied for unemployment assistance through the state.

Jobless residents report they are still having trouble qualifying for help through the state's online unemployment assistance program. Others say they have only received part of the benefits owed them, saying they've either been turned down for the $275-a-week state reimbursements or the $600-per-week federal emergency coronavirus payments with no explanation given.

To date, Florida has deemed more than 400,000 people ineligible for benefits.

The federal payments under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act were extended to self-employed workers who don't qualify for state reimbursement. According to the Small Business Administration, about 1.6 million Floridians are self-employed.

"I am one of probably many that have been denied unemployment benefits," said Pinellas County resident Shelly Meadows. "Being a self-employed sales person, I file and pay my taxes once a year. My claim was deemed ineligible because there is no record of my employer filing withholding tax and there is no area to appeal. It’s tough. My sales have dropped 90 percent and my 22-year-old son is delivering food to make ends meet, so he’s in eligible and I have to help him out as well."

In the latest report issued by WalletHub, States Whose Unemployment Claims Are Recovering the Quickest, the personal finance website said Florida is experiencing the fourth worst recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

Before the pandemic began in January, 310,226 Floridians were unemployed. In May, that number went up 349.56 percent to 1,394,645 people.

Due to Florida's reliance on tourism, WalletHub financial analysts expect the trend to continue through the summer.

“A decrease in summer travel due to COVID-19 will keep the rate of unemployment in the travel and tourism industries high compared to other sectors, as they will receive a much smaller inflow of cash than normal and consequently will have reduced hiring power until we proceed to a full reopening,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst.

According to WalletHub, Hawaii has experienced the biggest increase in unemployment, jumping by 629 percent from January to May, compared to the national average increase of 203 percent.

“Hawaii’s overall unemployment rate is 22.5 percent, compared to the average of 13.3 percent," said Gonzalez.

Another disadvantage is the fact that so many small businesses in the state were shut down during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the SBA, Florida has 2,180,556 small businesses, 404,941 of which have employees who were also impacted by the closures. These small businesses employ two-fifths of the state's private workforce.

The good news is most of the job losses are temporary, said Gonzalez.

"May’s jobs report shows 15.3 million people on temporary layoff compared to 2.9 million who have permanently lost their jobs,” said Gonzalez. “Most jobless Americans expect to be rehired by their former employers, but exactly how soon that can happen will depend on both how quickly states are able to reopen and how safe the government and businesses can make customers feel. For example, mandatory COVID-19 testing before entering an airport could significantly alleviate people’s concerns about flying again.”

She added, however, that the recent rioting could delay business reopenings.

“The recent rioting seen in many states will have an impact on unemployment, as it comes at a time when many businesses are just beginning to reopen after being closed for months during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “This could be devastating for business owners who need to rebuild at a time when they already lack revenue, as well as for the employees of those businesses who will join the tens of millions of Americans already without a job.”

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This article originally appeared on the Tampa Patch