TAMPA, Fla. — A $300 federal unemployment benefit will end on Saturday for Floridians, and it’s sparking mixed reactions among those depending on the benefit and employers desperate to fill open positions.
"It's going to be devastating for people. People are really scared,” said Vanessa Brito, an unemployment advocate who helps job-seekers navigate their unemployment benefits.
The state decided last month to opt-out of the additional federal benefit as part of its “Return to Work” initiative. The good news for those who depend on the extra money is that they will continue to see the checks through the first couple of weeks of July.
"...Claimants still have maybe two weeks before they claim this week that we're currently in. So, you know, they'll get $300 going into July because they'll be claiming these back weeks,” said Brito.
Some employers across the Tampa Bay area who have had a hard time filling vacancies said they hope the end of the extra benefit will bring more workers into their doors.
Mammie Luke, co-owner of the Black Chef Eatery in Ybor City, said she sees the situation from both a worker and an employer perspective.
"My husband was a college professor. I was a marketing manager,” she said. “…He lost both his teaching jobs during the pandemic."
But after a little time on unemployment, Luke and her husband got busy starting their Ybor City restaurant.
"We have responsibilities,” she said.
However, as business grew, Luke said it got harder to hire help.
"They will call the day before the interview to confirm that they're coming to the interview. On the day of the interview they won't show up,” she said.
So, now that unemployment benefits are scaling back, Luke hopes more people will follow through with their interviews.
"That is definitely going to open up the workforce, where they're going to have to get back to work,” she said.
The extra $300 unemployment benefit will run out on June 26. However, other federal unemployment programs like Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation will still be available for the foreseeable future.
Brito says there are also other state resources to help as well.
“Our Florida is great,” she said. “They just came up with rental assistance and it's a statewide program, so people don't have to kind of wait for their city or municipality to open up their application process.”
Brito also says the workforce is changing, and employers could struggle with hiring unless working conditions change.
“People are demanding livable wages, and a lot of employers still haven't been able to catch up and you know, good reason for most of them, with the pandemic,” she said. “It's really important to kind of look at both sides, you know? You have employers who are having a hard time hiring but they also need to think about what their employees or potential employees have lost over the last year, health care credit, you know, all these things…”
For more information and explanation on employment benefits, visit www.floridajobs.org.
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