TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday that he’s signed two more executive orders, one of which is designed to help people who lose their job during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governor said the state has received a staggering number for re-employment assistance. In the last two weeks, it’s received 348,511 claims. In 2019, there were 307,701 claims, he said, during the entire year.
“We’re in a situation where this system is not handling the needs of the people of Florida,” DeSantis said. “I’m directing all agency heads to identify and deploy agency employees to assist the with their reemployment assistant efforts, including call center operations and other citizen services.”
DeSantis said the web platform was “overloaded" and that people should be able to fill out paper applications, if necessary. With attention to the website, DeSantis said he’s order the Department of Economic Opportunity to purchase additional software as necessary to ensure the website can handle the increasing volume of applications.
A second executive order signed by the governor relates to mortgage foreclosure and eviction relief. Both will be suspended for 45 days.
“Given the circumstances, I think that those suspensions are warranted,” DeSantis said. “I’m not sure that you’re going to rent out a lot of new places right now anyways, but nevertheless you just never know how people are going to act,” DeSantis said.
On Wednesday, DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order after weeks of resisting such a move. DeSantis’ announcement came as federal and local pressure mounted for him to abandon the county-by-county approach he had previously implemented.
DeSantis said he is issuing the order after consulting with President Donald Trump and White House advisers, who have said Americans need to stay home through all of April. It goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday.
Florida’s unemployment benefits top out at $275 a week for 12 weeks. But a new federal stimulus law is slated to provide an additional $600 a week, for four months, to people who qualify through the state.
The staggering number of unemployment claims last week -- 6.6 million -- pilled onto the record-breaking 3.3 million from the week prior.
The total easily shatters all jobless numbers in history. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, said he’s working hard, trying to balance the needs of individuals to make money against the needs of people to stay healthy.
“The way we’re going to keep our businesses going is make sure we get past this as quickly as possible,” Scott said. “We’ve got to start thinking about how we’re going to do this, how we’re going to open up restaurants, how would a big business operate?”
Scott voted for the Cares Act, signed into law last week -- a $2.2 trillion relief bill. He said it’s vital to help people who have lost their income and their livelihood.
“We can give people a break for a period time. You still owe the money, but just give them a break for a little while, while we get through this and we get reopened again,” Scott said.
Sen. Marco Rubio’s office sent a statement to News4Jax on Thursday reading in part:
“Floridians all across our state have lost their job, had their hours cut, and wages reduced – and the numbers are higher than many people realize or have been reported. I have been focused on the Paycheck Protection Program as a lifeline at a time when many are facing a dire situation, and I will continue to work to ensure that millions of small businesses and the Americans they employ can take advantage of it.”