JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As Florida looks to send more people back to work, the state is pulling out of a federal program that awards unemployment benefits to out-of-work Floridians.
The Department of Economic Opportunity on Monday announced that beginning on June 26, Florida would no longer participate in the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program, joining Georgia and nearly two dozen other states with similar plans.
For months, the program has provided an additional $300 a week to job seekers unable to find work. That’s in addition to as much as $275 a week that unemployed Floridians can get in assistance from the state.
In its announcement, the Department of Economic Opportunity cited labor statistics compiled for the month of April, which showed more than 460,000 job openings available for those seeking work.
The move comes as the state ramps up its “Return to Work” initiative and follows waves of complaints from employers throughout the state, who say they’ve been unable to fill vacant positions. It also comes days before Florida reinstates its work-search requirement.
“Now we’re transitioning from kind of relief in the midst of a crisis to now having the more traditional reemployment outlook,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday during a visit to Florida International University in Miami.
The decision drew criticism from Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, with the former governor calling it “heartless leadership”.
State Rep. Anna Eskamani said she would’ve waited until the work-search requirement is back in place.
“Which would have been a good transition to see what the workforce does and how the workforce responds,” Eskamani said.
The Democratic lawmaker said she believes Floridians aren’t going back to work for a wide range of reasons, from being overqualified for jobs that are available to a lack of child care for parents who would otherwise be working.
As News4Jax previously reported, restaurant owners in Jacksonville and Jacksonville Beach have said they can’t hire enough workers to staff their businesses due to a lack of interest.
That’s been the case too for Raul Arias, who told News4Jax he struggles to keep the doors of his three Jacksonville restaurants open on a weekly basis. He said it’s gotten so bad that when an employee called out sick Tuesday, he had to close a restaurant for the day.
“We’re still shutting down early on Sundays, we’re closing on Mondays,” he said. “We just don’t have the manpower for that.”