OUR POSITION: The economic fallout from the COVID-10 pandemic is hitting Florida harder than most other states and there is no resolution in sight.

If the increasing number of coronavirus infections hasn’t gotten your attention, maybe the horrendous economic impact will.

A few weeks ago most of us were optimistic the worst was behind us. The “curve” was flattening and even residents in the hardest hit areas of Florida — Broward and Miami-Dade counties — were seeing some relief as the daily infections leveled off.

But, as the state opened up more restaurants, bars and theaters and people began to ignore recommendations about wearing a mask or social distancing, the numbers began to spike. Now, Florida is being ranked among the 10 worst states in the nation for the COVID-19 outbreak.

Amazingly, some people still are not taking this pandemic seriously. Perhaps, if their health is not a concern, they may want to consider the other problem created by the pandemic.

Florida’s economy has taken a shot to the gut.

While there are positive signs of a recovery, albeit very slow, the damage done in the three months the state was shut down is telling. It’s going to take a long time for Florida to recapture the robust numbers it was experiencing just a few months ago.

Unemployment continues to be a big problem. Even though most restaurants and businesses have opened, there are still national chain stores that have not brought workers back and many of the restaurants that are open have not recalled 100% of their staff. And, there are many businesses that did not survive the shutdown.

Here are some numbers, posted by WalletHub, to contemplate:

• Unemployment claims for the week of June 10, 2019 were 7,509. Claims for this past week of June 8, 2020 were 86,298. These numbers rank Florida as the seventh slowest recovery rate in the nation.

• The change in unemployment between the first week of this year versus last week are equally alarming. Jan. 1, the first week of 2020, 4,618 filed for unemployment in Florida compared to the 86,298 last week. That is the second worst number in the nation.

On top of the poor employment numbers, the hotel industry — Florida’s bread and butter — has been devastated.

According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, Florida has lost $1.3 billion in state and local taxes because of the pandemic shutdown. Legislators who must balance our budget are likely choking on that number.

It’s no secret how much Florida counts on tourists to fuel the state’s economy. Orlando’s theme parks, Fort Lauderdale and Miami beaches, Jacksonville’s diverse offerings of a business climate, beaches and nearby historic attractions all serve as a catalyst for tourism and that means hotel stays.

Florida ranks third among all states for tax revenue losses. Only California ($1.9 billion) and New York (tied with us at $1.3 billion) can compare.

If all that news isn’t bad enough, some restaurants in Miami are having to close because of employees and customers testing positive for the coronavirus.

Good news is difficult to find right now relating to the virus. Perhaps baseball will be back soon. And the National Basketball Association is bringing its playoffs to Florida. That should produce some revenue, some smiles and a distraction from all the bad news.

But the bottom line is, the coronavirus will impact our lives for the forseeable future.


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