Democratic Lawmakers Discuss Impact of Unemployment on People of Color

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A group of Florida state lawmakers discussed the impact COVID-19 unemployment is having on people of color at a virtual meeting Thursday.

The discussion included Florida Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, State Senator Victor Torres, State Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez and others. 

The May 2020 Job Report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows Latino, Black, and Asian unemployment rates are higher than the national average. 

“When America catches a cold, the black community catches pneumonia,” Former State Senator Dwight Bullard said. 

Bullard works with the New Florida Majority. He says the independent political group has surveyed roughly 30,000 people across Florida since the pandemic started. 

He says major concerns include getting unemployment benefits and meeting basic needs. 

“Lack of access to the unemployment system, food insecurity, worriation on rent, worriation on mortgage, basic kitchen table needs on how these people are going to meet the needs of the moment,” Bullard said. 

Technical glitches and slow processing of claims have plagued Florida’s unemployment system for months. Some people are still waiting for help. 

“I didn’t think it would be this bad, at this point in June,” Kamilia Brooks said. 

She applied for unemployment in April. She is yet to see any unemployment money. “Fortunately my two biggest bills, mortgage and car note, are in forbearance so that gives me some break but at the end of the day i still have other bills to pay every month and don’t have any income coming in,” Brooks said. 

New unemployment numbers released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor show new unemployment claims in Florida going down. 

Initial claims filed dropped by 97,187 the week ending June 6th compared to the prior week. 

Bullard and others say systemic changes are needed to ensure communities of color recover from the economic impact of this pandemic and other future impacts. 

“Now you see the huge gaps in how to deal with that unemployment system, whether it is the virtual access space or how those forms are being processed, that is an immediate fix,” Bullard said.

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