Gov. DeSantis looks to ease coronavirus-caused worker woes

Gov. Ron DeSantis holds news conference March 19 in Tallahassee. (WCTV)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that he is willing to waive some long-standing requirements that unemployed workers seek new jobs to be eligible for unemployment benefits.

DeSantis said he is considering the move to mitigate what could be a major hit to Floridians’ paychecks, as the novel coronavirus causes businesses to shut down or restrict operating hours.

“We are going to be looking into seeing what I can waive, to be able to get people cash in their hands, who have been displaced from this,” DeSantis told reporters in Tallahassee.

The governor also said that he is “supportive of figuring out what I can do” to protect unemployed workers from being evicted.

“I need to see what what my authority would be and how it would work,” the governor said.

According to state health officials, Florida has 432 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including nine deaths, as of Thursday.

DeSantis’s comments regarding unemployment compensation, meanwhile, came a day after Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson said unemployment claims have doubled in recent days and that he’s working with staff to “help those people and ensure that we process those claims.”

Florida law requires unemployed workers to be actively searching for work. They also must be ready and available to work, which includes having access to child care. The maximum weekly allowable payment is $275, which DeSantis earlier in the week suggested was low. Payments currently are available for a maximum of 12 weeks but the duration is tied to the state unemployment rate, which is expected to increase.

The governor said Thursday he believes the impact of COVID-19 could allow him to loosen the unemployment compensation requirements.

“In this case, I think it’s such a dislocation, that I think I can probably waive some of that,” DeSantis said.