Gov. Ron DeSantis has been able to enjoy presiding over a state with record low jobless numbers. But not for much longer.
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis has been able to enjoy presiding over a state with record low jobless numbers. But not for much longer.
A day after the Department of Economic Opportunity announced the state unemployment rate for January stood at 2.8 percent, DeSantis on Tuesday acknowledged the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, will drive up jobless numbers.
“This is an external factor that is going to cause problems,” DeSantis said.
Trying to slow the spread of COVID-19, bars and nightclubs have been ordered to close for a month. Entertainment venues from Disney and Universal to Major League Baseball spring training have shut down. The cruise industry has been hammered. Efforts continue to cut down spring break gatherings.
The leisure and hospitality field accounts for 1.28 million, or about 14 percent, of the 9.07 million non-agricultural jobs in the state.
Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson said Wednesday that unemployment claims are already spiking.
“Since last Thursday, we have seen over a 100% increase in unemployment claims,” Lawson said. “At the same time, I am ensuring my staff is able to help those people and ensure that we process those claims.”
Tens of thousands of people are expected to make jobless claims to the state, which offers 12 weeks of benefits that top out at $250 a week.
DeSantis, who said he wants immediate relief in a federal stimulus plan for small businesses and workers surviving paycheck to paycheck, thinks the eventual end of “social distancing” and self-isolation will cause a surge in production.
“I do believe there is going to be pent-up demand,” DeSantis said. “I think that people already are getting a little tired with all the changes we’ve seen in society, and hopefully this doesn’t go on for months and months. But I can just tell you, when we get on the back side of this, I think people are really going to want to get back to work.”
KOTTKAMP V. COLORADO
Former Florida Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp didn’t draw much sympathy from Colorado when he used social media to express frustration that the coronavirus disrupted his family vacation plans.
“Thank you for making this announcement as we are driving in to Vail,” Kottkamp tweeted Saturday. “Came all the way from Florida only to have our family’s vacation destroyed.”
Kottkamp, a former Republican lawmaker who served as lieutenant governor in Charlie Crist’s administration, deleted his tweet. But not before it grabbed attention.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, oozed sarcasm in replying to Kottkamp.
“Thank you for your deep concerns regarding the health of our residents in the face of a global pandemic, as well as your heartfelt sympathy for the difficulties faced by those who work in the ski industry and hospitality,” Polis tweeted back.
Polis also tweeted a statement supporting Vail Resorts suspending operations due to COVID-19.
“Coloradans and our business community must continue to rise to meet the demand of these challenging times and everyone must do their part in stopping the spread of his virus,” Polis stated. “The slopes will still be there when this is all over.”
Showing it’s Colorado over party, Sage Naumann, a spokesman for Colorado Senate Republicans, also took a shot at Kottkamp.
“‘Came all the way from Florida only to realize Colorado is actually stepping up to prevent the spread of a global pandemic,’” Naumann tweeted. “Fixed it for you, Lieutenant Governor. Colorado is united in beating this.”
WE SAY WHEN WE’RE THE CHAMPIONS
It’s becoming a thing for Florida politicians to declare victory off the field.
Late last Friday, hours after most sports in America went dark because of the spread of COVID-19, Florida senators voted 33-2 to pass a resolution (SR 1934) declaring Florida State University’s men’s basketball team national champions. The reason: “by default upon cancellation of the NCAA tournament.”
Sen. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican and Florida State alum, justified his claim in part because of a tournament prediction by basketball TV announcer Dick Vitale. Gruters didn’t fully list the national rankings, where the 28-3 Kansas Jayhawks were the unanimous first-place team in the weekly USA Today and AP polls when the arenas went dark.
“This is not obviously binding or anything else, but this is for the Florida Senate and us to recognize our heroes and these guys that have done such an amazing job this season,” Gruters said on the Senate floor shortly before 11 p.m. Friday.
Ranked fourth nationally with a 26-5 record, the Seminoles won the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season and, as the No. 1 seed, were declared the winner of the ACC postseason tournament when it was canceled due to COVID-19.
In 2018, Florida lawmakers jumped on board efforts to proclaim the University of Central Florida as college football national champions. The logic: Alabama defeated Georgia in the college football championship game, after Auburn had defeated Alabama. And the UCF Knights, who were not invited to the college playoffs, completed an undefeated season by beating Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: “The governor wants all Florida public universities to be online only for the rest of the spring semester. I am not sure all of my students have Wi-Fi at home.” — Florida A&M University journalism school faculty member Doug Blackburn (@dblackburn).