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U.S. Labor Secretary weighs in on Florida dropping federal benefits boost early

'People are still hurting,' Secretary Marty Walsh says
Posted at 5:45 PM, May 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-28 20:58:50-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida and the U.S. Labor Secretary are at odds over ending federal boosts to unemployment checks early.

Secretary Marty Walsh said Americans are still struggling and it is "unfortunate" Florida is focused on ending the program on June 26. The weekly $300 payments would have otherwise expired in September.

During a recent one-on-one interview, Walsh said Floridians were stuck looking for livable wages, struggling with child care, and still had COVID hesitancy.

'People are still hurting': U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh sounds off on states ends $300 federal benefits

"People are still hurting," Walsh said. "People are still recovering or getting through a pandemic. ... Many of the people that are unemployed right now, that are receiving unemployment benefits, the job is not coming back and they're looking for opportunities to new careers."

The Democrat and former Boston mayor said he didn't believe the federal payments kept people from rejoining the workforce. That's despite Florida and at least 22 other GOP-controlled states eliminating the supplements for that purpose.

"I find it hard to believe that there are about eight and a half million people out of work in America, right now, many of them receiving unemployment benefits, that they all have the mindset that they're not going back to work as an additional $300 per week," Walsh said. "I think that there are other factors here."

Gov. Ron DeSantis
Gov. Ron DeSantis says he believes ending the extra federal benefits will help businesses hire more employees.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis defended the decision, earlier this week. He said the state has more than 400,000 available jobs, and businesses are struggling to find employees.

"We're in a much different place than we were a year ago, fortunately for us," DeSantis said during a Wednesday news conference."I mean, look, you'd rather the problem be too many job openings rather than people not able to get jobs."

Florida has also created the "Back to Work" initiative to better connect job seekers with those hiring through a partnership with CareerSource Florida.

Critics have continued to say the program does little to address the need for better-paying jobs.