In a state where 12% of the population already lives below the poverty line, Governor Ron DeSantis shut down Trump’s 300 dollar per month unemployment benefit for hundreds of thousands of people in Florida. From the beginning of the pandemic close to three million Floridians have applied for state or federal unemployment assistance. Many unemployed are desperate to pay their rents and feed their families as the effects of COVID on our economy lengthen.
Trump’s benefits also came with conditions for the states, each state must already be spending $100 dollars per person on jobless benefits to receive the $300 dollar benefit, Florida doesn’t spend enough on it’s unemployed to reach that threshold. Instead of solving the problem DeSantis simply dropped Florida from the program. Florida will no longer receive the Federal unemployment benefits that Congress and Trump promised, instead it will pass to other states. The amount needed by Floridians to keep the program operational is about the same as the cost of two jet fighters or 200 million dollars.
“It’s baffling,” said state Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Miami Democrat. “You are leaving money on the table. For people who claim we’ve got to get the economy going, guess what? One way to get the economy going is to make sure that people have food on the table and can pay their rent.”
DeSantis can tap into disaster relief funds to reach the threshold and republicans have suggested he do so but DeSantis has responded that the state will use the 6 billion it received for the “state’s coronavirus response” and to “patch holes in the budget.” According to the Washington Post, in July as Florida led the world in coronavirus cases DeSantis held just one meeting that month with his top public health official. “I never received information about what happened with my ideas or results,” said Thomas Hladish, a University of Florida research scientist whose regular calls with the health department ended June 29. “But I did hear the governor say the models were wrong about everything.”
State Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who encouraged DeSantis to accept the extra federal unemployment aid, said the governor should tap the state’s emergency reserves to come up with Florida’s matching share.
Because Florida can’t reach the matching threshold, those Federal assistance dollars will go to other states. State Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat, said other states would get federal tax dollars because Florida is “so unbelievably cheap.”
“The idea we can’t identify a pot of money to draw down a three-to-one margin is just obscene,” Rodriguez said.