TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Tens of thousands of out-of-work Floridians will lose an additional $300 a week in unemployment benefits after Friday.
The state made the decision to end the payments, which could have lasted until September, early in response to a wave of complaints from small business owners and lawmakers who believe the checks are keeping people from working.
Florida still has a half-million residents unemployed. At the same time, businesses are struggling to fill more than 500,000 jobs.
“Thirty-four percent of small business owners report that they’ve increased wages in the last three months,” said Bill Herrle with the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
The federation said 57 percent of its members couldn’t find someone to work over the last three months.
“We’ve always asked this question on job openings. This is at a 40-year record, and it continues to climb,” Herrle said.
More than 2.3 million Floridians were eligible for the $300/week additional pandemic payments that end on Saturday.
“Yes, there is a workforce shortage, but to completely blame it on unemployed people is wrong,” State Rep. Anna Eskamani said.
Eskamani’s office has been ground zero for helping the state’s unemployed population navigate the benefits available to them.
“Some are still furloughed, some have child care expenses, some are too old to be on their feet all day, in the sense they don’t have the ability to do that,” Eskamani said. “They need a job that can meet their level of skill and comfort.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, pawn shops are seeing something they’ve never seen: people have stopped borrowing. But while borrowing is down, check cashing is up.
“People are getting more money, so there wasn’t the urgency of getting money from me,” Mark Folmar, the owner of a Tallahassee pawn shop, said.
So far, the idea that people aren’t working because they can make more staying home is unproven, but the picture could be clearer after the $300/week checks end Saturday.
Florida’s unemployed have also been required to actively look for work to collect benefits since the end of May. A person must make three or five contacts a week, depending on the size of the county in which they live.