First-time unemployment applications slowed last week as Florida was hit by Hurricane Ian, with claims down about 25 percent from the prior week.
But state officials are bracing for an uptick in the coming weeks. The U.S. Department of Labor issued a report Thursday that estimated 4,063 initial claims were filed in Florida during the week that ended Oct. 1, down from a revised count of 5,472 during the week that ended Sept. 24. Last week’s total was the lowest for any week since just before Memorial Day in May.
But after the Category 4 hurricane, state Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Dane Eagle said Monday that, “a lot of people” are without work “through no fault of their own.”
Eagle’s agency took steps to help people who have lost jobs in storm-damaged areas, including eliminating what is known as the “waiting week” before unemployment benefits can be paid and suspending a requirement that applicants contact five potential employers a week to keep unemployment benefits flowing.
Joining Eagle during an appearance in Cape Coral, Gov. Ron DeSantis expressed a desire to bring people to storm-damaged areas for cleanup and reconstruction efforts. “If people can be useful, if there’s a place for them to work, we want them working in Southwest Florida,” DeSantis said.
Meanwhile, the Farmworkers Association of Florida called on state officials Tuesday to help people working in the agriculture industry. While Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance is available to farmers, “there is no such targeted government relief for farmworkers,” the association said. “Many also live below the poverty line and paycheck to paycheck, so losing the food in the refrigerator after a power outage can be a major setback,” the association said in a news release.
“In addition, as many farms, groves, orchards and nurseries suffered damage, many farmworkers may be out of work for an indefinite period of time following the hurricane, making them and their families even more at risk for hunger, loss of housing, inability to pay for utilities and medical care, and other hardships.”