Florida withdraws from federal pandemic assistance program

Author: Hank Tester / CBS Miami
Published: Updated:
FILE – This May 7, 2020, file photo shows a man wearing a mask while walking under a Now Hiring sign at a CVS Pharmacy during the coronavirus outbreak in San Francisco. On Thursday, Nov. 12, the number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to 709,000, the fourth straight drop and a sign that the job market is slowly healing. The figures coincide with a sharp resurgence in confirmed viral infections to an all-time high above 120,000 a day. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

As of this Saturday, the state of Florida is withdrawing from a federal pandemic assistance program that offered a $300-per-week boost to state unemployment benefits.

The move by the DeSantis administration was designed to lure people, who have been drawing enhanced unemployment benefits, back to work.

So, it is back to work, especially for restaurant employees.

“With the number of jobs open in the state we applaud the governor’s initiative to end the federal component this weekend,” said Geoff Luebkemann, senior vice president of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association.

Restaurant operators have struggled to fill critical positions and say that the additional federal subsidy made it more attractive dollar and sense wise for workers to stay home.

“I suspect as households make decisions over the next couple of weeks with that federal component no longer being available, we are optimistic that our workforce will return,” Luebkemann said.

But it is going to cost to lure workers back to the service industry.

“I think this is a tipping point. To look at it and go are these really living wages we are paying our employees especially in bigger cities like Miami. Are we paying enough?” said Michael Cheng, FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism.

Signing bonuses, increased wages, and opportunities for advancement are being offered.

“We have seen upward pressure on wages,” Luebkemann said.

How about other folks that don’t have employment opportunities? Tough times ahead not only are the Florida federal unemployment enhancements ending so are other federal programs that have an impact.

The state weekly benefits end on June 26. On July 31st, the federal eviction ban ends.

Also, on July 31st federal ban on foreclosures ends and on September 4, federal unemployment insurance programs expire.

Keeping an eye on all this, the folks at Farm Share, who operate free food distribution are gearing up for a possible surge in demand as federal pandemic funds programs end.

“There are going to be surges as these events occur. We expect to see spikes. Just how long will those spikes last? Will those spikes last? Will it create a new plateau or untimely dip down,” said Stephen Shelly, Farm Share CEO.

When it comes to rent, 6.2 million renters or one in seven are behind in payments.

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