PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT

THE ISSUE: Chamber asks DeSantis to reinstate unemployment “actively seeking work” reporting.

OUR OPINION: It’s time to go back to work. 

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In Florida, COVID-19 vaccination appointments opened to all adults on April 5. 

Now, over a year into the pandemic, millions of Floridians are now fully vaccinated. Many citizens who desire to get the vaccine to combat the novel coronavirus have had a chance to do so, with countless completing the vaccination cycle. People want to go out and have fun again, but not everyone is ready to go back to work.

Citrus County Chamber of Commerce president/CEO Josh Wooten, the outward voice for local businesses, fired off a letter last week to Gov. Ron DeSantis, asking him to bring back the reporting requirement of “actively seeking work” from unemployment claimants, because he said was hearing employers plea for workers, but business owners allegedly can’t find any because they are making more money staying home and being unemployed.

Just a few days later, state officials extended the waiver for unemployed Floridians to continue receiving benefits without actively searching for a job until May 29. 

But Florida is “open” and has been for quite some time now. The policies in place to have the state economy fully running but still have very padded unemployment cushions in place for workers are two policies that are not in synch. There needs to be incentive to go back to work. 

The initial pandemic state of emergency was declared April 16, 2020, so that claimants would not get caught up in endless red tape when applying for unemployment, but as more and more people get vaccinated, when is it time to return to “normal”?

Last week, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new set of mask prevention measures, noting that vaccinated folks can safely congregate maskless outdoors, but still recommends a mask indoors and in crowded spaces for the time being. The economy continues to grow, forecast to rebound to pre-pandemic levels by late summer, and most all people are ready to return to the pre-pandemic way of life. 

Sure, there are still lingering effects of the COVID shutdowns, but at the same time, many are ready to move on as they have all of the protection available against the vaccine. 

Bringing back the “actively seeking work” requirement isn’t the answer to completely end the abuse of the unemployment, but it will deter some from applying and getting back to work. Alternatively, there is a longstanding problem with the low wages of the service industry and the amount received in unemployment. For those who have to pay for child care, sometimes staying home is the better option. That’s an issue that needs attention, not just acknowledgement. The system needs a hefty change. 

Jobs are being offered to people at this point, and the people just don’t show up. Many prefer unemployment than actually working. 

There’s more than one viewpoint to this issue – from family, to individual to employer.

However, everyone has the opportunity to get vaccinated in Florida right now, so as we enter the summer months, there should be a focus on getting back to “normal.” COVID recovery will ramp up once more people get off unemployment, and back to work.