ICYMI: Steube Pens Op-Ed in Sarasota Herald-Tribune Explaining Florida’s Staffing Shortages and Perpetual Unemployment Benefits

May 4, 2021
Press Release

SARASOTA, FLA. – U.S. Representative Greg Steube (R-Fla.) penned an opinion piece in the Sarasota-Herald Tribune shedding light on new hurdles and staffing shortages Florida’s businesses are facing throughout the reopening process.

“Despite being able to legally open, restaurants and businesses are closing down and limiting hours – and local economies are suffering due to a continuing staffing crisis,” Steube wrote. “There are good jobs available but employees are not yet coming back and, in their words, it is because they are making more money staying at home not working on unemployment than they would make working.”

Steube continued, “this crisis demands a second look at our funding formulas and eligibility criteria for these extended unemployment benefits. Any solution that the Biden administration, the U.S. Congress or the Florida Legislature endorses should be designed to bring people back to work, not keep them home.”

The op-ed follows a roundtable discussion Steube hosted in Venice with local business and restaurant owners to learn more about their perspective. A staffing shortage has been an issue across the 17th District and entire state as Florida has reopened at full capacity. While unemployment remains low, workers are unwilling to return to jobs, especially in restaurants. Due to the lack of workers, many restaurants in the area have been forced to limit their hours, or even shut down completely.

Steube later joined Sarasota’s ABC7 to discuss the shortage.

You can read the entire op-ed here or below.

Staffing shortages are hurting Florida businesses

By: U.S. Rep. Greg Steube

Unemployment benefits were necessary in the early days of COVID-19. Today, protracted unemployment assistance has become an obstacle for our local businesses to re-establish themselves. This is especially true for service industry jobs - like restaurants - but this same issue transcends all sectors of our economy from agriculture to construction. With many enhanced state and federal benefit programs, workers bring home more money from unemployment than they do from working a difficult job. So why return to work?

Florida’s economy is recovering in many respects and has been since the Governor re-opened Florida. Together, Governor DeSantis and federal partners have worked rapidly toward a reasonable reopening approach that protected public health and business interests. These efforts have put Florida in the forefront of a national recovery.

However, as the state has re-opened, new hurdles have emerged that may irreparably harm Florida’s vital restaurant, tourism, construction and manufacturing industries for many years to come. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with local business leaders in Venice and all sectors had a common challenge. Despite being able to legally open, restaurants and businesses are closing down, limiting hours, and local economies are suffering due to a continuing staffing crisis. There are good jobs available, but employees are not yet coming back, and, in their words, it is because employees are making more money staying at home not working on unemployment than they would otherwise make working.

This was one of the many reasons all of my Republican colleagues in both the House and the Senate opposed Biden’s last 1.9 trillion dollar “COVID” bill which extended unemployment benefits until September of this year. With less than 9% of the spending going towards COVID related expenses, this partisan legislation stunted our economic recovery and recklessly increased spending for unrelated purposes.

Florida is one of the nation’s largest state economies - this crisis of unfilled jobs is something we cannot afford. Pre-COVID, Florida’s restaurant industry alone brought in over $50 billion from over 40,000 restaurant locations in the state. That translates into statewide employment of over 1 million people. In Florida’s 17th Congressional District, restaurant jobs accounted for nearly 18,000 positions. More broadly, Florida’s tourism industry sustained nearly 1.6 million jobs in 2019.

Without this critical workforce we are setting ourselves up for failure. A workers shortage will negatively impact our restaurant, hospitality, agriculture, manufacturing, construction and tourism industries for decades to come. When businesses close, their business continuity is gone, their investment is lost, and the shuttered neighborhood businesses may never reopen, dragging down the overall community’s economic growth. All this is not even to mention the impact of workers now being paid not to work that is further skyrocketing our national deficit to record numbers.

This crisis demands a second look at our funding formulas and eligibility criteria for these extended unemployment benefits. Any solution that the Administration, Congress, or the Florida Legislature endorses should be designed to bring people back to work, not keep them home.

Workers too should understand that re-employment represents future opportunity to succeed that is far better than static government benefits. A benefit check controlled by politicians and bureaucrats represents dependency, not economic independence. Our policymakers and citizens all need to realize that the best stimulus check is a paycheck from a job. Our state economy, our livelihoods and, to some degree, our sense of independence are related to seeking full employment as quickly as possible in Florida.

U.S. Rep. Greg Steube represents Florida’s 17th Congressional District.

###

Issues: