Waiver extended by state officials


Unemployed Floridians will continue receiving benefits even if they are not able to search for work as state officials are extending the waiver.

On Tuesday, The Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) announced the move. Moreover, the waiver effect may remain until May 29th. It applies to all work search and works registration requirements.

The DEO and Governor Ron DeSantis will also keep in effect a separate waiver; removing the 1-week waiting requirement to apply for unemployment after losing a job. Furthermore, the waiting week waiver is extended until the 26th of June.

Several of the state’s unemployment mandates were put on hold last year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With so many Florida workers impacted, state officials attempted to remove some of those barriers to receiving state support, even as Florida’s unemployment application system collapsed under pressure due to a surge in jobless Floridians.

Governor Ron DeSantis agreed to continue extending those waivers. Even though the CONNECT system Florida’s unemployment apparatus has since improved, it’s still hit multiple bumps along the road, shutting down again as recently as mid-April.

In addition to that, Governor Ron DeSantis has highlighted Florida’s fairly strong economic performance through the recent stage of the pandemic. However, the Governor has considered that parts of the state are still suffering, as indicated by the waiver renewal.

The unemployment news comes as DeSantis extended Florida’s overall state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic. That order was issued in March 2020; despite Governor DeSantis’s push in recent months to reopen the state, he’s kept the state of emergency in effect.

That emergency order will remain in effect another 60 days.

In order to claim unemployment benefits, individuals must still use the CONNECT system every two weeks to request that assistance. “In so doing, claimants will confirm that they are still unemployed and acknowledge that you are able and available for work,” the DEO explains.

Hospitality workers are important: Tourists tell DeSantis


Hospitality workers need to be prioritized. On Friday, Central Florida tourism industry leaders asked Governor Ron DeSantis to include their employees in the next round of priorities for vaccine shots. They argue that front-line tourism workers need to be protected from the COVID-19 virus in order to make the economy emerge.

The Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association, Visit Orlando, and the International Drive Chamber of Commerce each wrote to DeSantis Friday urging him to consider the state’s largest — and hardest-hit — industry when deciding who should be considered critical employees for COVID-19 shots at state-run vaccine centers.

CFHLA President Robert Agrusa wrote in his letter to DeSantis that, “Hospitality and Tourism are critical to the success of Florida’s economy — with 1.6 million Floridians, and nearly 500,000 Central Florida residents being employed by the industries in 2019 — according to research conducted by Tourism Economics and VISIT FLORIDA,”.

He further said that; “By ensuring hospitality and lodging employees are prioritized for vaccination under Phase 1c, it will help our region promote the safety of our destination to millions of eager travelers who — in peak travel years — have generated over $90 billion in economic impact for the state.”

Visit Orlando’s letter was co-signed by the organization’s Board Chair Brian Comes and President Casandra Matej.

They note, “This request is in line with the roll-out protocol listed on the CDC website, which also includes traveler accommodations personnel in the Phase 1c category as a prioritized group essential to continuing our country’s critical functions.”

A particularly hard-hit region in Central Florida. It is among the tourism-economy-heavy regions of Florida particularly hard hit by the economic collapse of the coronavirus crisis last spring and has been the slowest to recover. While Florida’s unemployment rate had softened to 6.1% by the end of the year, the jobless rate was still 7.2% in Orange County, and 8.7% in Osceola County where many lower-wage tourism and hospitality workers live.

Agrusa said other hotels and tourism associations around the state are sending similar letters requesting hospitality workers be recognized as priorities for vaccines.

According to experts, it may take years to fully recover the hospitality industry. However,  getting hospitality staff vaccinated could speed that up both by assuring their health and safety and by sending a message nationally that the hotels are safe, industry leaders argued.

Agrusa pointed out in the letter that the hotel industry has been doing its part in the battle against the coronavirus.

“Since March 2020, hotel properties have been utilized as a part of Florida’s initial COVID-19 testing strategy and are now continuing to serve as vaccine distribution locations. Hotels across the state have served as temporary lodging to house medical workers and other first responders, and hospitality and lodging employees have remained on the front lines of this pandemic for over a year,” he wrote.