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Florida was unprepared for this unemployment and public health crisis | Letters

Here’s what readers are saying in Saturday’s letters to the editor.

We’re unprepared for this crisis

Calls for a special session in the Florida Legislature

I joined the call for the Florida Legislature to return to Tallahassee for a special session. Unfortunately, that call was rejected, with Democrats supporting it and Republicans opposing it.

If legislators don’t believe this crisis warrants a special session, what would?

The number of Floridians applying for unemployment shattered previous benchmarks. Since March, over a million Floridians have filed for unemployment. We were unprepared for this volume. Applicants are still waiting for claims to be paid, and others have been wrongfully denied. Still others have received laughable amounts in benefits — one constituent informed me she had been approved for $58 a week.

Florida was also unprepared for the underlying public health crisis caused by the coronavirus. At the beginning of this year, over 2 million Floridians had no health insurance, partly because Florida is one of the few states not to accept federal funds for Medicaid expansion. Now many more Floridians have lost their jobs and the accompanying health benefits.

Florida has some of the country’s stingiest unemployment benefits. We must expand them, extend the eligibility period, and overhaul the broken system. We must also expand Medicaid to ensure millions of Floridians without health insurance have access to care.

Finally, if we fail to do our jobs, our constituents should be able to replace us with new leaders. We must ensure every voter can vote by mail with paid postage. We cannot force voters to choose between their health and their civic duty. if we want people to go back to work, we should be willing to do the same.

Adam Hattersley

The writer is a Democratic state representative from Riverview.

Roads don’t kill people

Avoid dramatic Bayshore change | Editorial, May 8

Police investigate the scene where a motorcycle collided with a bicycle along Bayshore Boulevard near Rome Avenue on April 4, killing both riders. [Spectrum BayNews9]

The editorial about fixing Bayshore Boulevard was spot on. Changing Bayshore will not change people’s behavior. Bayshore doesn’t kill people, people kill people. Speeding cameras and very stiff fines will change the behavior. In exchange for public safety, we lose privacy in a world with cameras everywhere.

Bobby Santos, Tampa

We need to do much more

Avoid dramatic Bayshore change | Editorial, May 8

Your editorial about Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa was abhorrent, as was the milquetoast action of the Tampa City Council. More locals will die on Bayshore, as will visitors, until serious measures are taken to reduce vehicular speeds. Shutting half the road down once a week won’t do it. Shutting half the road down outside of rush hour will. Why would anyone object to this? Perhaps because it hasn’t been tried. Let the city of Tampa do this from now until the lifting of coronavirus restrictions and let’s see how well it works. If it doesn’t work, I will eat my bicycle pedals.

Elizabeth Corwin, Tampa

White privilege is real

Arrests in shooting death of black man after outcry | May 8

Artist Theo Ponchaveli paints a mural of the likeness of Ahmaud Arbery in Dallas, May 8, 2020. Ponchaveli said that he was inspired to paint the mural after seeing the video of Arbery's death on a news broadcast and learning that today would have been his birthday. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) [TONY GUTIERREZ | AP]

The day I saw my white privilege was a day I was pulled over right outside my school. It was late in the afternoon and I was cruising a little over the speed limit without realizing it. An officer passed me going the other direction and he turned around to stop me. I was wearing a red polo with my school’s name on my chest. My team backpack full of swim coach things sat in my passenger seat, my three sons safely buckled in their car seats behind me.

The officer came to my passenger window. He asked for license, registration, insurance. I handed my license over immediately and pulled up my insurance on my phone to give him. Then, without a thought even crossing my mind, I reached to open my front glove box and then my center console looking for my registration. I couldn’t find it. I asked for my phone to call my husband; the officer gave the phone back to me.

The officer wrote me a ticket that day for not having my registration on me and gave me a warning for speeding. I thanked him and promised I’d fix it.

As I drove away processing the experience, I realized what I’d done without any measure of thought or care. Without permission or instruction to do so, I’d reached into multiple compartments in my car the officer couldn’t see. And I was still alive.

If I were black, my children could have watched their mother die that day, and with arguably “probable” cause. But I’m white, and I survived that thoughtless encounter. I’ve thought of that day many, many times since then, especially when stories like the one gaining national attention today surface.

If you’re white and you can easily dismiss a death like Ahmaud Arbery’s or Sandra Bland’s or Tamir Rice’s or Atatiana Jefferson’s, you are part of the problem.

Amanda Linton, Brandon

Do you provide sick leave?

U.S. re-opening places a premium on trust | Column, May 7

Cheryl Leis, ready for regular life to resume, painted her Honda to urge Florida leaders to reopen businesses. [Cheryl Leis]

This piece asserts that customers will resume frequenting a business if they trust it is safe to do so. One powerful way for a business to create trust is to offer paid sick leave. Without it, many employees are likely to show up for work despite being ill. A sign at the front door stating that “this business provides paid sick leave” would go a long way toward engendering the trust that customers will need.

William Sacco, Tampa

Wear a mask, everyone

Trump touts mask factory while not wearing one | May 6

President Donald Trump participates in a tour of a Honeywell International plant that manufactures personal protective equipment, May 5, 2020, in Phoenix. [EVAN VUCCI | AP]

President Donald Trump abdicated his role as commander-in-chief by refusing to wear a face mask. All U.S. residents need to wear a mask in public. This isn’t just to protect themselves, but to save the lives of other people.

Mary Cassaday Jones, St. Petersburg