DeSantis urges Congress to pass unemployment relief

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference Lynne Sladky / AP photo, file

Governor Ron DeSantis on Monday called on Congress to swiftly adopt an unemployment benefit package for people made unemployed by the coronavirus pandemic.

DeSantis made his remarks Monday to reporters in Kissimmee, a city in central Florida where thousands of Walt Disney World workers work. The Walt Disney Co. has announced plans to lay off more than 30,000 employees, including 18,000 at the Orlando theme park.

DeSantis blamed California for the cuts in the company, where Disneyland remains closed due to that state’s tougher pandemic policies and federal policies that have caused Disney to close its theme parks.

Congress should have passed an aid package “months ago,” said DeSantis. “The reason why a lot of people are unemployed lies in federal politics.”

Disney closed its doors “because of what these federal experts said they were doing,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis made no mention of Florida’s own failed unemployment system, which imploded over the summer amid a wave of coronavirus-induced jobless claims. The state needed more than $ 150 million in emergency spending to strengthen the system, but thousands of desperate Floridians still couldn’t get help.

DeSantis has blamed his predecessor, Republican Governor Rick Scott, for the system’s flaws, but DeSantis himself was warned in June that the unemployment portal’s technology was fragile.

Also on Monday, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody joined 48 other attorneys general in a letter to Congress asking for an extension of the time to $ 150 billion for the coronavirus aid contained in the CARES Act to spend. Legislation stipulates that funds may only be used for expenses incurred between March 1 and the end of the year.

“We know the pandemic will challenge communities well beyond December 30, 2020 – a deadline that now seems inappropriate,” the attorney general wrote.

Where is the congress? Congress has made little movement regarding any form of coronavirus relief since the first CARES bill was passed in March. The legislature, who is in Washington for a lame duck session this week, has eleven days to act. Congress could pass a stop-gap spending measure that could include unemployment benefits and more government aid to coronavirus. A non-partisan group of senators is trying to get stalled economic talks going.

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