Friday, June 22, 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.

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Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBIís handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but itís also suppression

The Supreme Courtís ruling last Monday to allow Ohioís purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they havenít voted, Ohioís purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18