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Unemployment Doesn't Keep Employees At Home

Steven D. Ervin’s column “New system ‘check’ needed” in the Sunday, Oct. 17 Chronicle seemed to push the myth that the state unemployment system is a socialist handout for people who are gaming the system in order to avoid work. While I sympathize with his difficulties in hiring personnel for his restaurant, he seems to have some misconceptions about the state’s very flawed unemployment system.

The CONNECT system (Florida unemployment) debuted in Oct. 2013 under then Gov. Rick Scott. Gov. DeSantis himself said that the system was internally constructed to ‘put as many kind of pointless roadblocks along the way,’ and ‘it was definitely done in a way to lead to the least number of claims being paid out.’ Yet Gov. DeSantis barely acted to improve the system – even during the worst of the COVID crisis.

In fact, the computerized system is so flawed that people are waiting weeks, sometimes months, just to get a weekly payment. Software glitches are causing people to be falsely told that they are ineligible, forcing them to go through time-wasting appeals processes.

All this for a maximum of $275 per week for 12 weeks – a grand total of $3300. And that’s the maximum. Some people are getting far less than that – not even enough to buy groceries, let alone pay rent and other bills. Does Mr. Ervin really think that’s what is holding up his hiring process?

While there are always some people who will consider gaming the system, past research has shown these numbers are extremely low. Most people would prefer to work so they can provide for their families. And, given the current high demand in the job market for workers, people have more choices now than in the past - they are looking for higher wages and more benefits. This is the basis of the American marketplace - competition. Mr. Ervin's problem is he is not able to match the competition.

Mr. Ervin’s claim that, “we are heading toward more people receiving than contributing,” is simply false. Florida’s unemployment rate is 5%; in Citrus County, it is a bit higher at 6.5%. That’s a lot more “contributors” in the job market than a year ago.

The reality is that there are more jobs than people seeking employment. Job seekers can afford to be picky. Employers need to be more creative in attracting workers.

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