CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Federal pandemic unemployment benefits are coming to an end today for Floridians.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, it caused a shockwave across the country leaving many out of work. An economic impact that none of us were prepared for. As a way to supplement the income many Americans lost, after businesses were forced to shut down during the pandemic, the American Rescue Plan Act was signed into law.
The extra $300 per week was given with the thought that it would help people get through the summer and find a new job. In May, 24 states, including Florida, announced they will be ending the unemployment benefits early.
“This is the first big step toward being normal again," says Victor Claar, Associate Professor of Economics at FGCU. “It wasn’t that people couldn’t find jobs or that they lost their jobs because they got laid off in the traditional way, it’s because of the pandemic. We, of course, wanted people to stay home and slow the spread- especially in March and April.”
According to Claar, recent numbers across the country suggest the rate at which people are quitting their jobs is higher than it’s been in 15 to 20 years.
“People are quitting because, it’s not that they don’t want work, it’s that they’re reconsidering themselves as individuals and their families and what they really like to do as opposed to continuing to do the things that they were doing pre-pandemic.”
The labor market, as Claar suggests, is tight right now. Employers we talked to says it’s difficult to find workers, especially in the food industry.
“I can see that there’s some downsides to it from their perspective but, from a business owner’s perspective, it’s definitely a plus,” says Marlies Laaper, Owner of Cafe You.
Like many in the food industry, Laaper says it’s been tough finding new employees during the pandemic.
“When we placed an ad, we’d get lots of applications but to get people to turn up for the interview it was really hit and miss. We’d go, ‘Oh! Another one who didn’t turn up!’”
Laaper says plenty were applying but it wasn’t for the work. She says it was in order to maintain their benefits. And she added that some of those who were applying were not qualified for the job. But now that federal unemployment pandemic benefits have ended, the people who really want the job- and have the skills to do it- are starting to apply.
“That’s a real blessing to us, that we’ve actually got people turning up," said Laaper. "We’re so excited!”
“We need to make sure that we don’t create a safety net that is so generous that it discourages even a few people from moving on to do the things they’re meant to do," said Claar. "It would be great for the economy to get back to something like normal, even though it won’t be the normal we knew back in March of 2020.”
The last day Floridians will be able to file a weekly claim for benefits is June 27.