Florida saw a bigger increase in unemployment claims last week than any state in the U.S., and received more total claims for the week than every state except California.
Another 206,494 Floridians applied for unemployment benefits, an increase of more than 31,000 from the week before. By comparison, California, with nearly twice the population, received about 230,000 new applications.
Nationwide, another 1.8 million displaced workers filed unemployment claims, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In less than three months, a total of 42.6 million workers have lost jobs, more than 1 in 4 members of the U.S. labor force. While not yet reflected in the official unemployment rate, that’s a greater percentage than were out of work during the depths of the Great Depression.
More than 1.8 million Floridians have filed claims since the start of the pandemic, but more than a third of them have yet to receive any assistance, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. So far, the state has paid $4.2 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits to a total of 1.2 million applicants. Many others say they have not received anything, including answers to their questions or explanations about what, if anything, was wrong with their claims.
Orlando aviation executive Richard E. Boyce Jr., 49, last month wrote to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has said many applicants are to blame for filling out their applications incorrectly. Boyce said he applied for unemployment benefits and even enlisted the help of his state senator’s office, but had still not received anything for seven weeks “due to a poorly run system.”
“As a tax-paying, voting citizen of the state of Florida, I’m looking for action on the federally mandated benefits I have a right to," Boyce said in an email to DeSantis. He asked "why the state continues to withhold them after seven full weeks, and when my state government will act as responsibly as my local bank and grocery store?”
Of the applicants who have been paid, 119,000 are gig workers, independent contractors and self-employed workers who have received about $76 million in federal pandemic unemployment assistance. That puts Florida behind other states in paying the assistance, which Congress approved in late March.
Meanwhile, the prolonged drought in consumer spending continues to force hotels to turn what they hoped would be temporary furloughs into prolonged or permanent layoffs. Cutbacks, some dating to mid-March, that were publicly disclosed on Thursday include:
• All 496 employees, including general manager Ron McAnaugh, at the Tampa Marriott Water Street. The cuts have included temporary layoffs, furloughs and temporary reductions in hours.
Marriott had hoped business would return to normal within six months, McAnaugh said in a letter to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. But he added government actions to curb the spread of COVID-19 “have caused a sudden, severe and worsening downturn in the hospitality industry that now makes it reasonably foreseeable that these temporary actions may extend beyond six months.”
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• All 125 employees at the Tampa Marriott Airport, who have seen similar temporary layoffs, furloughs and reductions in hours.
• 108 employees at the Sirata Beach Resort and Conference Center in St. Pete Beach. On May 20, management told them to expect their temporary layoffs to last for more than six months.
“We do not know what the future will hold,” general manager Paul Herbert said in a letter to the state.
• 67 employees of the Westshore Grand in Tampa. They too have been told their layoffs would likely go on for more than six months. The hotel is temporarily closed but expects what it’s describing as a “scaled-back re-opening” within the month.
In addition, the Grand Hyatt Tampa, which closed temporarily in March, this week confirmed that it was laying off an unspecified number of employees.
“In response to the unprecedented decline in travel demand we have seen across the globe, we have had to take significant actions that have deeply impacted our operations and colleagues at Grand Hyatt Tampa,” Grand Hyatt Tampa general manager Ruth Benjamin said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times.
“Unfortunately, as a result, we have made the extremely difficult decision to implement layoffs across our hotel workforce,” Benjamin said. “While we have made significant cost-cutting measures in an effort to avoid this scenario, ultimately, additional measures were necessary to secure the hotel’s long-term viability.”
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