“Florida Jobs Act” passed, benefits cut, unemployment up

In May, with support of Florida Governor Rick Scott, the Republican controlled legislature passed what they euphemistically called the “Jobs Act.” Scott and fellow right-wingers predicted the 10 percent tax cut they were giving corporations would encourage job growth. Instead, the unemployment rate has continued to worsen, hitting 10.7 percent in June. The national rate is 9 percent.

At the same time, the “Jobs Act”, HB 7005 cut the maximum number of weeks a person can collect from 26 weeks down to 23. And if the jobless rate does improve, the maximum number of weeks someone could collect next year could be cut to as short as 12 weeks.

Also, Florida workers will lose part of their federal unemployment insurance, which is tied to state benefits.

Since Florida workers are no longer counted as unemployed once they run out of benefits, the real rate of unemployment is far worse than 10.7 percent–it’s estimated at 20 or 21 percent. By saying someone is no longer unemployed once they have been without work for 23 weeks, the politicians have rigged the formula so that it’s almost impossible for the official rate to worsen. But the Florida economy is so bad it has succeeded in doing the impossible.

There’s more: Under the Jobs Act, if a worker doesn’t watch what she says about her boss when she goes to the bar or Bible Study after work, she could be fired and denied any benefits. The bill has extended the definition of “misconduct” to include doing something that the employer says hurts his business even if it’s after a worker punches out.

The maximum benefit an unemployed worker can receive remains $275, one of the lowest in the country.

In the Levy-Citrus-Marion County district, the official unemployment rate is 12.4 percent. Even more workers in Levy County would have been jobless if not for a grant A &N received to train certified welders. Suzanne Mills, director of human resources at the Williston-based vacuum fittings manufacturer and vice chair of the Workforce Connection Board, credits the grant with the company’s success in meeting the needs of customers. Getting the grant not only meant that welders were added to the payroll, other employees who had been laid off were also called back to work. And the general Williston economy benefitted.

The Florida Jobs Act is just one in the avalanche of laws being pushed by Teabaggers supposedly designed to encourage economic growth. While they scream about government spending, they justify government subsidy of big corporations and wealthy owners by saying it is needed to create jobs. Rep. Doug Holder, who sponsored HB 7005 said .”It gives the message that Florida is trying to become the most business-friendly state in the country” and will encourage them to expand and move to the Sunshine State. Florida is so business friendly, corporations pay a maximum of only $378 a year per employee in unemployment taxes. In contrast, states like North Dakota, Minnesota and Utah have relatively high unemployment taxes, costing employers a maximum of between $2,470 and $2,925 per employee. These three states also have some of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation: 3.6 percent for North Dakota, 6.6 percent for Minnesota and 7.6 percent for Utah.

Florida politicians are indeed generous toward their wealthy business friends. But, no matter what they call the tax subsidies they’re doling out to corporations, they’re not creating Florida jobs.

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Author: Skipper Hammond

Skipper Hammond was born on the edge of Charlotte, N.C. in a time, in a neighborhood where children were free to play. She and her friends ran, biked, rode, explored and read. The entire neighborhood was their stage for the continuing plays Skipper created based on the stories they read. Cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, British and American,Yankee and Confederate armies romped through woods, across fields and creeks, up and down streets until good guys prevailed or softball and hopscotch season arrived.  Then she grew up and went to the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. Tar Heel legislators at the time saw no reason to finance economics education for women, but Skipper contrived a major in economics by cobbling credits in business and history. Involvement in a series of strikes by textile workers led to graduate work at Cornell with a masters in Labor Union History and several years of union organizing in North Carolina, Virginia and Florida for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.  After marriage and the birth of her son and daughter, Skipper, then living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, worked at jobs where she could punch out—stitcher, machinist, assembly worker, candy maker, database designer, economics journal editor—and still have the energy needed for the real work of political organizing for social and economic justice.  Her political work took the form primarily of writing and editing for movement publications, and when she moved from Cambridge to a farm in rural north central Florida, she began writing for the Ocala Star-Banner and Gainesville Sun, then founded the Williston Pioneer, where she was publisher, editor, reporter, ad salesperson and janitor. She also raised goats. She currently divides her time, unequally, between Williston, Florida, where she continues playing in the woods, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she invents stories. 

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