Saturday, April 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Jobless benefits need extension

With both parties motivated to avoid another government shutdown, Congress appears close to a bipartisan budget deal. But any deal needs to include extending emergency federal unemployment benefits. The job market remains tough and long-term unemployment is still high. The added weeks of benefits are an essential lifeline for families and will keep more of them from falling through the government's safety net.

The nation's job market is slowly improving. Last month, the economy added 203,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 7 percent, the lowest in five years. But the average unemployed worker is still out of a job for 36 weeks — more than 20 weeks longer than prerecession levels — and longer than the standard 26 weeks of unemployment benefits most states offer. Florida is even less generous due to a shortsighted initiative pushed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2011. Florida benefits range from 12 to 23 weeks based on the state's unemployment rate. This year, Floridians qualify for up to 19 weeks of benefits, a short time frame that has been cushioned by the additional 27.2 weeks of emergency federal benefits.

If the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program is not renewed by Congress, 1.3 million people will be abruptly cut off in the week between Christmas and New Year's. Next year that number will grow to nearly 5 million people shut out of income support, including 260,400 in Florida. Such policy is disruptive to families — unemployment compensation allows families to stay in their homes and maintain stability while looking for work. Benefits also stabilize the economy. Estimates are that without the federal unemployment benefits flowing, an estimated 240,000 jobs will be lost, more than 10,000 of those in Florida.

Extending unemployment benefits does not encourage malingering and joblessness, despite what congressional Republicans claim. Society gains when workers are given the ability to look for a job commensurate with their skills and experience — which was the point of unemployment insurance. A laid-off mid level executive who isn't so financially desperate that he takes a job as a restaurant dishwasher can find a better-paying job. Then his family won't need public assistance. And he can return to the ranks of being a contributing taxpayer sooner.

Extending unemployment keeps Americans out of poverty. Though the benefits are modest, an average of about $300 per week nationally and $232 per week in Florida, they are enough to keep families afloat. Shut the program down and the need will simply shift to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, and other government safety net programs for the poor.

Florida's unemployment rate of 6.7 percent is still high. Unemployed workers outnumber available jobs in every industry. Ending federal benefits would harm the state and Florida families.

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Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18