The governor’s non-response received a strong rebuke from state Democrats, who tweeted their disapproval of DeSantis being out of touch with the working class.
FLORIDA — Hundreds of thousands of Floridians who lost their jobs to the coronavirus pandemic, and who struggle to pay their bills and put food on the table, have come to depend on the federal $600-per-week benefits that are set to expire on Saturday, July 31.
Patricia Com, who at first saw her work hours reduced by half, and then lost the job altogether when the restaurant where she had been working for more than a decade closed for good, is one of the many who wonder how they will make ends meet without the federal aid.
“The work is gone, so you rely on your benefits. But when that’s gone too, what do you do? What will I do?” she said.
This, she said, keeps her up at night. And she is not alone. If Congress doesn’t extend the benefits, more than 20 million Americans could find themselves in the same situation as Patricia.
In Florida alone, nearly 1.7 million have received more than $8 billion in those federal payments over the last four months. The extra $600 payment provides a much needed boost, significantly increasing the assistance to those who had lost work.
And this money doesn’t just go to putting food on the table; it maintains businesses alive by recirculating in the economy. In fact, economists warn that without those funds, the U.S. economic recovery could be derailed.
This week, Congress reconvened to decide whether to extend the $600-per-week benefits, as well as debate the possibility of providing another coronavirus relief package.
Out of Touch
But as Congress decides, the situation is quickly becoming desperate for many like Patricia. Yet earlier in the week, when asked whether Congress should extend these benefits, Gov. Ron DeSantis gave a startling response.
“I haven’t been following what they’re doing,” the Republican incumbent told a reporter.
With an unemployment rate in April and May higher than at any time since the Great Depression, Democrats want to extend the $600-a-week payments until next year, or gradually reduce aid as the unemployment rate falls. But for the most part Republicans have been unwilling to commit to a decision about extending the federal benefits.
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DeSantis, a staunch Trump ally, appears to favor the president’s “work bonus”, which seeks to provide an incentive for people to reenter the workforce. Meanwhile, many like Patricia wonder just “where is the work?”
Democrats’ Strong Response
The governor’s non-response garnered a strong rebuke from Democrats, who Tweeted their disapproval of DeSantis’ lack of touch with working class Floridians.
“With Florida’s ongoing unemployment fiasco, you’d think @GovRonDeSantis would make an effort to understand their struggle. You’d think wrong,” tweeted Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, from Orlando.
And Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, also from Orlando, strongly urged the governor to act on behalf of Floridians struggling without a job and facing the loss of federal aid. She tweeted:
“People need you to advocate for the $600 FPUC extension… People can’t survive without it!”
And as Congress debates and DeSantis dodges questions, Patricia worries. “I am taking money out of my savings [which is] a constant worry, because what will I do when it runs out?”
A call from The Americano to Ron DeSantis’ office in Tallahassee has not been returned.