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State encourages Floridians to ‘return to work’ with new initiative

The state wants Floridians to get back to work.

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity launched the “Return to work” initiative Wednesday, encouraging people who are collecting unemployment benefits to reenter the workforce.

DEO Secretary Dane Eagle said some companies struggling to hire call this the “new pandemic.”

When the pandemic began, the governor waived the requirement to fill out job searches on the unemployment website because jobs weren’t available.

Now that jobs are coming back, some businesses say people don’t want to work, while job seekers say livable wages are hard to find.

In Tallahassee Wednesday, business owners in the restaurant, construction and retail industries blamed it all on benefits.

Until September, Floridians can collect more than normally available in unemployment, thanks to federal programs.

“We are going to have a really hard time competing until that extra $300 goes away,” said Rob Bazemore, the owner of Metro Deli in Tallahassee. “Once it gets back down to $275, now, we can work with that. We can beat that, but if you are going to make us beat 600 bucks a week, it’s going to be not easy for us.”

Keep in mind, $575 is actually the maximum. Many people don’t get that much in benefits.

Plus, glitches and holds on the unemployment website still delay payments weeks or even months.

But Eagle says the state’s requirement to search for work is coming back after May 29.

If you don’t apply for five jobs a week, your benefits will stop.

If you deny “suitable work,” that employer can report you to DEO.

“There’s no reason not to feel safe anymore,” Eagle said. “Vaccines are plentiful. Jobs are plentiful. Unemployment is going to expire at some point, so we want to help people get up on their feet.”

Eagle says CareerSource is available to help you find a job, and if you can’t find one in your field, they’ll help you find a different one.

On the other side of things, unemployed people we’ve spoken to say they have been looking for work. For some, the jobs in their preferred fields have changed. The same jobs they had a year or two ago are paying less, offering less hours or providing less benefits.

Some job sites show hundreds of people all competing for the same position.

MORE: Florida DEO Announces Florida’s ‘Return to Work’ Initiative

Reporter:Sara Girard
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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