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'It's Been Really Difficult' DeSantis Says As Florida's Unemployment Rate Jumps To Nearly 13 Percent

Close-up of a person's hands on the keyboard of a MacBook
Glenn Carstens-Peters
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Unsplash

As Florida’s reopening plan chugs along, unemployment woes continued to plague Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration this week.

New numbers released on Friday show the state’s unemployment rate almost tripled in April, reaching nearly 13 percent. That’s roughly 1.2 million Floridians out of work.

“It’s been really difficult,” DeSantis said about grappling with the soaring unemployment numbers. “If we can get people back to work, get some confidence back in the communities, you’ll start to see, hopefully, that a lot of these jobs will be recovered.”

But that will take time, DeSantis said. Meanwhile, the state’s system for doling out jobless benefits continued to have problems, as a data breach left the personal information of almost 100 claimants exposed.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity acknowledged the data breach on Thursday but did not say what information was exposed or when the breach occurred. It only said the breach was addressed within an hour of officials becoming aware of the incident.

It’s against that background that DeSantis has continued to tout health-care numbers amid the coronavirus pandemic and to make announcements about reopening the state after nearly two months on partial lockdown. The latest efforts include lifting state-level restrictions on youth activities, like summer camps and sports, and giving the go-ahead for vacation rentals in various parts of the state.

ROLLING OUT THE WELCOME MATS

Vacation rentals in many areas were allowed to reopen with some restrictions this week, after being shut down as part of DeSantis’ response to the pandemic.

Halsey Beshears, secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, had approved plans submitted by 26 counties as of mid-day Friday. The plans allow vacation rentals to immediately resume operations, just as the busiest tourist season starts in regions such as the Panhandle.

Some counties said they will allow hosts to rent out properties if they agree to enhance cleaning procedures, reject reservations from international travelers and agree to only welcome guests from states that are not considered hot spots for COVID-19.

DeSantis said last week he would be OK with lifting the ban on vacation rentals if county and state officials gave the go-ahead first.

The governor banned vacation rentals in late March as part of an executive order aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. He said the move would discourage visitors from hotspots for the virus.

But he did not impose any state restrictions for hotels, motels, inns or time shares, prompting property owners and management companies to accuse the governor of arbitrarily targeting the vacation-rental industry.