It is called a safety net because it is there to prevent people from falling into poverty. Yet when hundreds of thousands of Floridians needed the state’s unemployment safety net during the pandemic, it wasn’t there. Now a year and a half later, the ripple effects continue.
“I unfortunately don’t have savings, or didn’t. I don’t have a retirement, and I just prayed, hoped.” That’s how Jennifer Dotson described being without a job or unemployment for four months in 2020. It was very stressful I don’t even know how to describe it.”
Dotson was able to stay in her home and keep her utilities on, but she is still repaying the debts she ran up during the pandemic.
“The world shut down and I was furloughed, so I did what everybody else did the last week of March, filed for unemployment,” said Lisa Kreitzer, who lost her job and waited two months for unemployment benefits.
Before the pandemic, Florida’s poverty rate fell from 14.7% in 2016 to 12.7% in 2019, however, as a result of the pandemic and the recession, that rate shot up to 15.5% in 2020, a full five points higher than the national average. With many people exhausting savings or borrowing money to make ends meet during 2020 and into 2021, it is expected that Florida will continue to lag behind the national average.
“People like me, I don’t think we’re ever going to be recovered,” Dotson said.