TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Fewer Floridians filed for unemploymentlast week than any other week since mid-March, a possible signalthat the worst of the unemployment crisis may be behind us.
However, unemployment data released weekly by the US Departmentof Labor also shows the the Sunshine State continues to suffer oneof the slowest pandemic economic recoveries.
While part of that can be attributed to Florida’s near-recordlow unemployment prior to the pandemic, much of the delayedrecovery is tied to tourism, the lifeblood of Florida’s economyand the industry hardest hit by COVID-19.
Delynn Meyer was one of roughly a thousand workers furloughedfrom the Trade Winds Resort in March. However, she’s one of thelucky ones. She found a new job just a couple months later.
“I knew in my heart of hearts hospitality was going to be hithard, I just didn’t know how hard,” she said. “There arestill so many people out of work in hospitality, so many people whodon’t know when they’ll be able to go back to work.
A new report released this week by the US Travel Associationshows leisure and hospitality accounts for 40 percent of thecountry’s long term pandemic unemployment, a far greater numberthan any other industry and disproportiate to the role tourismplays in the overall economy.
Florida in particular is reeling, with a similar state reportreleased last month by Destinations Florida showing tourism revenuedown more than 80 percent.
“I think the federal government needs to do something forhospitality,” Meyer said.
It’s trying to.
Both the HEROES Act passed by the House of Representatives inMay as well as the Senate’s recently-unveiled alternative, theHEALS Act, include provisions that would benefit tourism includingan expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program.
But lawmakers remain in a stalemate.
Congresswoman Kathy Castor, D-FL, says a relief packagecompromise must come as soon as possible.
“We’ve come down about half from where we started, and wewant (the Senate and the White House) to meet us halfway,” shesaid.
Even then, however, Castor explains that financial aid is merelya Band-aid solution. That’s because if other states continue toimpose travel restrictions on those who travel to and from Florida,true recovery won’t come until the virus is under control.
“Then it will be safer to get back to work, safer totravel,” Castor said.
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