Florida will be ending a $300-a-week federal payment for the unemployed starting next month, the state's Department of Economic Opportunity announced Monday.
The supplemental Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program payment will end June 26, the department said.
The announcement comes after the department said April labor statistics showed private sector employment increased by 18,800 jobs and more than 460,000 online job postings available throughout the state.
"The reason is simple: we have over half a million job openings in the state of Florida,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said.
Recipients have been able to receive the $300 federal benefit on top of their regular state unemployment aid. The payment, which lasts nationwide until Sept. 6, was included in President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion financial rescue package.
Eliminating the $300-a-week payment is one of several measures that states have taken to restrict or eliminate jobless aid and press more recipients to seek work.
“Any time you take away benefits, it's a difficult decision, but in this case, I think it’s absolutely the right decision,” said Scott Shalley, the president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation.
Shalley's organization came out in support of the decision to cut the expanded federal benefit early. He says he has heard from retailers, big and small, about the challenges they are facing hiring staff.
“Every day I hear from retailers, from the biggest of the big boxes to the small mainstream, to the smaller stores, and everyone is sharing in this same challenge and it is certainly not unique to one sector,” Shalley said.
NBC 6 has heard from restaurant owners across South Florida having a hard time hiring enough people to meet demand.
“I know a lot of restaurants are struggling to find kitchen staff. That’s one of the things besides the front of house, the back of house is extremely hard to find right now because of unemployment and stimulus checks coming through,” said Jonathan Cohen with Royal Pub and Kitchen.
The most recent employment data from the Department of Economic Opportunity shows the state’s unemployment rate in April was lower than the national average, but Miami-Dade County’s unemployment rate was higher than any other county in April at 6.9%.
Andrew Stettner, with the progressive think tank The Century Foundation, says South Florida could be impacted greater by this benefit cut.
“If you are on unemployment, are you able to make ends meet?” Stettner said.
He points out with Florida’s state unemployment benefits being some of the lowest in the country, a cut of the supplemental federal aid could have a big impact.
“In terms of dollars and cents to Florida alone, it could be another one and half billion dollars that doesn’t flow to families. And let’s remember, this is 100% federal funding,” Stettner said.
He also says the announcement puts unemployed people on a timetable to find employment.
“Now all of a sudden, they have been given 30 days, and if they don’t find a job in 30 days, they are going to be cut back to a benefit they can’t live on,” Stettner said.
It’s a challenge Roca Oswaldo knows well. He says he has struggled to find employment over the pandemic and fears the cut in benefits could make it harder.
“You do what you got to do in life, but it’s very difficult to be forced into something without having the time opportunity to do,” Oswaldo said.