ORLANDO (NewsNation Now) — Some Floridians are choosing to stay on unemployment despite companies across the state looking to hire.
Orlando is open for tourists again, with long lines at theme parks and busy hotels. More passengers traveled through Orlando International Airport in March than any other airport in the country.
Driving across the city, there are countless “hiring” signs, with some businesses even doing interviews on the spot.
One restaurant group in Orlando is even offering $250 bonuses and looking to hire 800 employees.
Kissimmee, a town just outside Orlando, is where many service industry employees live. Some lost their homes in the pandemic and are living in motels.
Despite all the job openings now, many service industry employees said they are still on unemployment.
Tracy Carden lives in a Kissimmee motel room with her 10-year-old daughter. She gets $200 a week on unemployment.
When asked, she said she has no idea if she could make more at a new job.
“Now I’m scared. I’m living in fear. If I get a job… I have got to feed my child, you know,” said Carden.
The maximum unemployment payment per month someone can collect is $1,100. Florida’s minimum wage is $8.65 an hour which works out to about $1,384 a month.
Barbie Austria runs Kissimmee Poinciana Homeless Outreach — and works with the unemployed people in the motels.
“…And I think that is the reason why individuals hold onto the unemployment because it is guaranteed for now instead of taking a part-time job,” explained Austria.
She told NewsNation she believes about 45% of the people she deals with in her outreach program could get a job.
Sheila Noah is on unemployment. She says she wants to work, but is afraid of catching coronavirus because she has a disabled daughter living with her in this motel room.
“After the pandemic, I had to stop working because all the doctors said you have to stop. The condition with my daughter was getting worse. They were like you can’t work anymore so that is why I am grateful I get unemployment and that is what holds me up,” said Noah.
Others in the motels, like restaurant server Victoria Hanson, say the unemployment is what’s holding society back here.
“Jobs would not be short-staffed. Wouldn’t have to worry about people not showing up and having to close a business down because nobody is coming into work,” said Hanson.
Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott wrote a letter to the Department of Labor saying unemployment benefits hurt small businesses that can’t fill jobs in Florida. Still, many Democrats in Florida say stopping or cutting unemployment would be a humanitarian disaster.