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A Return to “Normal” Requires a Return to Work

Florida is the best place in America for people who want to work and pursue opportunity. But, we need all the incentives to encourage work, not continued unemployment.  After all, the best antidote to unemployment is a job. Thankfully, Governor DeSantis has taken bold leadership steps recently to get Floridians back to work, address worker shortage issues facing Florida businesses, and continue our economic momentum.

Since 2015 and before COVID, Florida was creating one out of every 11 new jobs in the U.S. With 800 net new people relocating to Florida daily, Florida continues creating jobs, but is facing a workforce shortage. Florida has 461,000 open jobs looking for people to fill them, and 487,000 unemployed people looking for work. The Florida Chamber has heard from dozens of local chambers and hundreds of our members concerned about the lack of available and qualified employees. Some applicants don’t show up for interviews, won’t accept jobs, or do accept the job but never show up for work. Why? This issue can be attributed to two major problems.

One problem is the disincentive to work. To aid those who lost jobs, Congress moved quickly at a time of need when the pandemic shut the economy down and caused widespread job losses. They enacted the right policy at the right time, granting Floridians $300 (and at one point $600) per week through the federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program to be combined with up to $275 from the Florida Reemployment Assistance Program. Again, it was the right policy at the right time. But now that Florida’s economy has fully relaunched, the additional $300 in government aid is disincentivizing Floridians to return to work. How so? It’s a simple equation.

If Floridians can bring in $575 a week without showing up to work, they are already making over $14 an hour. These Floridians were just being rational actors and understandably doing what is in their self-interest when the federal government is heavily incentivizing them to stay home rather than go back to work.

Governor DeSantis and Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Dane Eagle took a first step by announcing recently that the work search and work registration requirement waiver due to the pandemic is expiring this week on May 29th. On Monday, they announced that Florida will end its participation in the $300 supplemental unemployment payment from the feds, effective June 26, 2021. These are smart decisions to end the disincentive to work. However, getting people into jobs leads to the second issue—the lack of trained talent to fill Florida’s available jobs.

Finding and building the right talent begins with providing opportunities. Right now, there are 829,342 Florida children living in poverty in our 983 zip codes. The Florida Chamber Foundation’s research has shown that one of the 10 root causes of generational poverty is inequities in education and workforce development. By investing in Florida’s workforce and providing the necessary training to fill the more than 2 million jobs the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Florida 2030 Blueprint says we need to create by 2030, Florida’s united business community will give our current and future workforce the opportunity at earned success. CareerSource Florida stands ready to help with workforce training today to ensure that Floridians have the necessary skills to explore new job opportunities.

From the very beginning while addressing Governor DeSantis’ Re-Open Florida task force, I said, “When the history books are written, I am confident Florida will be seen as a national and international example of a state that got it right.”

Just as the business community took the lead on incentivizing vaccinations with paid time off, workforce training and more, job creators are now taking the lead in returning people to work and creating jobs. Florida has recovered 766,000 jobs since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Until recently, we had a system encouraging some to stay home, and the quickest way to get the pandemic behind us is to encourage a return to the society we want to live in – safe, open and working.


Originally published in Sun-Sentinel, this op-ed was authored by Florida Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Mark Wilson.

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