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Capital Report: 04-03-2020

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Ken Lawson say fixes to the state’s broken unemployment system are in progress. The two are both apologizing to Floridians for the website crashes and long wait times that have made it extremely difficult for people to apply for benefits. Blaise Gainey has the story.

By executive order, Governor DeSantis is recruiting personnel from the state’s local workforce boards to help process paper unemployment application forms.  Tom Flanigan spoke about that with Michelle Dennard, president and CEO of Career Source Florida.

The global pandemic is causing major damage to the Florida economy in the form of business closings, and millions of people either laid off or forced to work from home. But the full effects are not yet clear. Steve Bousquet reports state Senate President Bill Galvano says he doesn’t think the Legislature has to return to Tallahassee before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

Florida’s hospitals are under capacity as they anticipate a rise in COVID-19 patients within the month. The lack of patients, coupled with increased spending to bulk up on supplies, has some of these hospitals furloughing their staff. Lynn Hatter has more.

An executive order calling for Floridians to stay at home except for essential trips is something Governor Ron DeSantis faced immense pressure to move on in recent weeks. On Wednesday, the governor announced the order – which sparked debate about one key provision: Churches, synagogues and all houses of worship are permitted to continue to hold services. DeSantis argues, that’s because he doesn’t have the power to shut them down.

I don’t think the government has the authority to close a church. I’m certainly not going to do that. At the same time, we got with the churches and the synagogues very early and said “In times like this, what you guys are doing is even more important. But, we ask that you do it in a way that is going to be conducive to this overall mission. And I would say almost all of them 100 percent agree – some have gone virtual, some have had people but they’ve been spread out far enough.

Some pastors applauded the governor’s dictum, allowing their churches to conduct services, even as they say they’ll take steps to limit the number of worshippers in their sanctuaries.  Among them is the Reverend R.B. Holmes, pastor of Tallahassee’s Bethel Missionary Baptist Church.

 “We all agree that we need to continue to do what the CDC tells us to do, to wash your hands, keep your distance and encourage a person, even on these very powerful upcoming Sundays, Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, to try and minimize the crowd.”

The Catholic Church is among the faiths not reversing its course on cancelling services, even with Easter fast approaching – a decision made by its leadership in Florida weeks ago. Bishop Bill Wack of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee says every diocese in the state has cancelled Mass for the foreseeable future – and that wasn’t an easy call to make. He spoke with Ryan Dailey a day after DeSantis stay-at-home order was issued.

It’s April, and National Healthcare Decisions Day falls later this month. Scheduled events to mark the day are being cancelled – as people of all ages, seemingly healthy, are dying of COVID-19. Anyone over the age of 18 should have a healthcare proxy to make medical decisions if necessary, and it’s as easy as downloading a free form online.  Reverend Candace McKibben, Director of Faith Outreach at Big Bend Hospice, spoke with Gina Jordan about the need for everyone to have a medical directive in place.