Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Legislators must help the jobless

For jobless Floridians such as Tina Cash, the announcement that the state is finally hiring more staff to process applications for unemployment compensation should signal some hope. But any fix likely will take weeks or months to deliver, adding insult to injury for Cash and others living on the edge who desperately need the cash they are entitled to receive. The Department of Economic Opportunity's continued refusal to admit its gross failure in managing a primary safety net suggests its leaders and Gov. Rick Scott still don't appreciate their responsibility. Legislators helped create this mess in 2011 but now they should be demanding fixes for their constituents, not just watching from the sidelines.

The Tampa Bay Times' Leonora LaPeter Anton wrote Wednesday about Cash, one of the thousands of Floridians whose misfortune of losing a job through no fault of their own has been compounded by the state's chronic ineptness. Systemic inefficiencies and inadequate backstops mean Cash has collected only a fraction of the more than $2,000 in unemployment compensation she is due. That has forced her to switch apartments, depend on friends and sell furniture and jewelry while looking for work to support her toddler. Last year, Florida's percentage of all unemployed people who actually receive jobless benefits was 16 percent — the lowest in the nation. And only one in three who apply for the benefits, which average about $230 a week, receives them.

For more than a year, DEO officials and Republican leaders have been unconcerned, blaming everyone but themselves. Federal Labor Department officials in April said Florida's implementation of a 2011 state law requiring applicants to file online and take a "skills assessment" made it difficult to apply, particularly for some non-English speakers and the disabled. The state agency countered it was the target of a political attack and called for a congressional investigation.

After rolling out a flawed $63 million computer system known as CONNECT, DEO head Jesse Panuccio claimed in November that the media was exaggerating the problem — ignoring the thousands of complaints that had been logged in government offices. Last week, Panuccio finally acknowledged the need to hire more staff to process claims. That move came roughly 10 days after he began fining Deloitte, the private vendor hired to build the computer system, and wrote a scorching public memo on the company's performance. Now Deloitte is pushing back, assuring lengthy litigation but little else.

Lost in the discussion are people such as Cash and Melissa Perkins, a 35-year-old Sarasota resident who has had to ask others to pay her rent because she hasn't received benefits or been able to find a new job. Perkins told Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau reporter Michael Van Sickler last week: "I've worked my entire life since I was 15, and I've never asked anyone for anything. What can I do?"

Unemployment compensation is insurance employers pay so that when they lay someone off, that worker will have a safety net until they can find a new job. Government's responsibility is to get those benefits to the people who qualify, and Scott's administration has been failing miserably. It's the Legislature's turn to address the damage from 2011 and force a fix.

Comments
Editorial: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

Editorial: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

Something is seriously amiss at Tampa Bay’s two CareerSource agencies, which receive millions in federal and state money to match unemployed workers with local employers. First, the agencies appear to be taking credit — and money — for job placements...
Published: 01/22/18

A Chicago Tribune editorial: Shut down this shutdown habit

"Shutting down the government of the United States of America should never ever be a bargaining chip for any issue. Period. It should be to governing as chemical warfare is to real warfare. It should be banned."— Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., addressing ...
Published: 01/22/18
Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Ignoring all available evidence that screen time and social media exposure can be harmful to kids, Facebook recently unveiled a new messaging app targeting children under 13. It’s yet another battlefront for parents who have to constantly combat the ...
Published: 01/21/18
Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18