74,000 Floridians seek jobless benefits, a tenfold increase | KOB 4
Advertisement

74,000 Floridians seek jobless benefits, a tenfold increase

A sign is shown outside the closed Mango's Tropical Cafe along the normally bustling streets of the Art Deco district, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Miami Beach, Florida's famed South Beach. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) A sign is shown outside the closed Mango's Tropical Cafe along the normally bustling streets of the Art Deco district, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Miami Beach, Florida's famed South Beach. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) |  Photo: AP

By ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON and MIKE SCHNEIDER
Updated: March 26, 2020 10:21 AM
Created: March 26, 2020 10:09 AM

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - More than 74,000 Floridians applied for unemployment benefits last week, a tenfold increase from the previous week, as the spread of the novel coronavirus shut down the state's theme parks and visitors stayed away from its hotels and airports, officials said Thursday.

The extraordinary jump in unemployment benefits applications came the same week that the largest theme park resorts in Florida - Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa - closed their gates and emptied their hotels, cruise lines halted trips and Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended on-premise food and alcohol consumption at Florida restaurants and bars.

Advertisement

Disney World and Universal Orlando promised to pay workers during the two weeks they planned to be closed, but secondary businesses such as nearby hotels and restaurants, event planners and caterers were hurt by the closures.

Across the U.S., nearly 3.3 million workers applied for jobless benefits.

Other states with smaller populations - Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio - had double the number of applicants for unemployment benefits as Florida, a state criticized by lawmakers and advocates for offering paltry benefits with burdensome conditions. Florida pays a maximum of $275 a week for 12 weeks.

Some applicants have complained that the process is too difficult.

Douglas Restrepo, 47, worked as an employee at a clothing store in an outdoor shopping center facing Biscayne Bay in downtown Miami until last week. When Miami-Dade County ordered non-essential businesses shut down, his manager let him and other employees go.

Restrepo tried to file his unemployment claim through an online portal run by the state's Department of Economic Opportunity, but has been struggling to access his account since he can't remember login details from when he was last unemployed for two weeks five years ago.

"I have been trying to get through them. They are not answering my calls. I understand a lot of people are trying to get unemployment, but this has been very difficult," Restrepo said.

DeSantis has eased up on some of the requirements, issuing an executive order this week that eliminates the need for applicants to apply to five jobs a week to receive benefits.

Florida had almost 1.3 million leisure and hospitality jobs in January, and Orlando was the most visited destination in the U.S. with 75 million visitors in 2018. Industry experts expect that sector to be decimated by the coronavirus-related closures. The U.S. Travel Association earlier this week estimated that 5.9 million jobs would be lost by the end of April due to declining travel.

The renowned, 1950s-built Eden Roc Hotel in Miami Beach offers a glimpse of the breadth of job losses in the hospitality industry. It notified state officials last week it was laying off 257 workers, including servers, cooks, beach attendants, bellmen, front desk agents, engineers, massage therapists, a hair stylist and a nail technician.

The pandemic has led the hotel to experience a "sudden and dramatic loss of business," general manager Michael Chin wrote in a letter to state economic officials.

Florida's unemployment rate was 2.8 percent in January. Earlier this week, DeSantis said he was anticipating not only economic consequences from job losses, but also other problems such as drug abuse and domestic violence.

"We had such an embarrassment of riches with our unemployment rate," DeSantis said. "What a different world it was where the agency was overstaffed just a few weeks ago probably from what the claims were. Now we are in a different situation."

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

___

Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP

____

Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak .


(Copyright 2020 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Comment on Facebook
Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement


Police dispatched to active shooter scene in northeast Albuquerque

Advocates question investigations used to target wolves

Demonstrators gather in Downtown Albuquerque to protest police brutality

Tin Can Alley opens for business

Expert discusses COVID-19's impact on mental health