TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida will soon end its participation in the federal government’s supplemental unemployment benefits program, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity announced Monday.
The program, which provides a $300 weekly add-on to recipients of unemployment insurance, will end on June 26, according to a news release. Claimants will stop receiving the payment the week beginning June 27.
The state justified the change because hundreds of thousands of jobs are remaining vacant.
“Thanks to Governor DeSantis’ leadership, Florida’s economy has bounced back tremendously with over 460,000 jobs available throughout our state and the strongest economic conditions in the nation,” Dane Eagle, Secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity said. “Florida’s employers are also seeing employment growth, as more Floridians, including some who completely left the workforce, are now eagerly reentering the workforce. Transitioning away from this benefit will help meet the demands of small and large businesses who are ready to hire and expand their workforce.”
According to the Department of Economic Opportunity, Florida has gained nearly 800,000 private-sector jobs since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and there are more than 450,000 online job postings throughout the state for job seekers
“Strong demand, coupled with this staffing shortage, has left many businesses forced to limit operating days and hours in addition to reducing capacity in both food service and lodging. Ending the supplemental $300 FPUC payment will help the industry regain pre-COVID levels,” said Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association President and CEO, Carol Dover.
The lack of employees comes as Florida is quickly reopening.
“The people are flocking, but we don’t have enough labor to open the doors full fledged to let them in. We have hotels who are leaving forty percent of their inventory what we call dark,” said Dover.
At a bill signing in south Florida the Governor said the end of the additional $300-a-week unemployment payments, is to encourage people to go back to work sooner.
“We’ve got almost a half a million job openings in the state of Florida,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Unions and workers advocates argue the change isn’t going to force people back into jobs, but into food lines.
Karen Woodall of the People’s Advocacy Center says the change will leave many people with nothing.
“People who have been out of work for most of 2020 and all of this year, and have used their savings if they had any. Who have borrowed money, who are behind on their rent. Who are behind on their car payment, who are struggling. Yes, it makes a huge difference,” said Woodall.
The end of the extra cash follows a state edict requiring those receiving or applying for unemployment to prove they have been looking for work. The requirement was waived during the pandemic, but it goes back in force this Friday.
Workers advocates say Florida’s work requirements for unemployment are so strict, fewer than 15 percent of those out of work qualify.
Efforts to increase benefits and add additional weeks failed during the legislative session.