Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday urged Congress to move quickly to pass an unemployment relief package for people left jobless by the coronavirus pandemic.
DeSantis made his remarks to reporters Monday in Kissimmee, a central Florida city that is home to thousands of Walt Disney World workers. The Walt Disney Co. has announced plans to lay off more than 30,000 employees, including 18,000 at the Orlando theme park.
DeSantis placed blame for the company cutbacks on California, where Disneyland remains closed because of that state’s stricter pandemic policies, and federal guidelines that prompted Disney to close its theme parks.
Congress should have passed a relief package “months ago,” DeSantis said. “The reason why a lot of people are unemployed is because of federal policies.”
Disney closed its doors “because of what these federal experts were saying to do,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis did not mention Florida’s own failed unemployment system, which imploded under a wave of coronavirus-prompted jobless claims over the summer. The state needed more than $150 million in emergency spending to boost the system, but thousands of desperate Floridians still could not get assistance.
DeSantis has blamed the system’s flaws on his predecessor, fellow Republican Gov. Rick Scott, but DeSantis himself was warned in June in June that the unemployment portal‘s technology was fragile.
Also on Monday, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, a Republican, joined 48 other attorneys general on a letter to Congress asking for an extension of time to spend $150 billion in coronavirus relief included in the CARES Act. The legislation requires the funds to be spent only on expenses incurred between March 1 and the end of the year.
“We know that the pandemic will continue to challenge communities well beyond Dec. 30, 2020 — a deadline that now seems unreasonable,” the attorneys general wrote.
Where’s Congress? Congress has made little movement on any form of coronavirus relief since the initial CARES Act passed in March. Lawmakers, in Washington for a lame-duck session this week, have 11 days to do act. Congress could adopt a stop-gap spending measure that could include unemployment relief and more state coronavirus aid. A bipartisan group of senators is trying to jump-start stalled stimulus talks.