By Trimmel Gomes/Florida News Connection
TALLAHASSEE – Laid-off workers are appealing to Gov. Ron DeSantis to reverse plans to terminate a federal pandemic assistance program that added a $300 per week boost to the state’s unemployment benefits.
Jim Ricer owned a thriving catering business called “Gourmet to You,” with which his team delivered meals to businesses, for 19 years. When the pandemic shut down corporate offices, Ricer found himself instantly out of business.
On top of it all, he said he only qualifies for federal unemployment benefits, which the DeSantis administration plans to end on June 26. Ricer thinks the move is all political, and said he feels like a pawn.
“It’s hard, it’s hard to be strong for my 15-year-old daughter, you know,” Ricer explained. “‘Cause you can’t let them know that you’re struggling, and it does, it does hit me in the heart, it’s very personal.”
A growing number of Republican-led states have withdrawn from the federal program, claiming it will be an incentive to get people back to work.
However, Ricer thinks the move will only add more pain and stress to families like his, and he’s backing an online petition by the Florida-AFL-CIO, to try to convince the governor to change course.
Karen Woodall, executive director of the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy at the Florida People’s Advocacy Center, said Florida could lose out even more on economic activity if it withdraws from the federal program.
“It’s money that goes into the economy,” Woodall pointed out. “People pay rent, people get gas, people, you know, they are not taking it and sticking it in a savings account, so it’s just out of touch with the struggles that people continue to go through in Florida.”
A study from the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, showed the change could impact more than 116,000 Florida workers, ending roughly $418 million in benefits. Some estimate the change could pull about $700 million in stimulus out of the economy.
With the removal of federal help, unemployed workers in Florida can only receive a maximum of $275 per week, which is among the lowest benefits in the country.