Writer: Joshua Andino
2 min read June 2021 — Palm Beach County’s state of emergency expired on Sundayopens PDF file , ushering in a post-pandemic reality as County Mayor Dave Kerner told the Palm Beach Post that he had no intention of signing any new emergency orders related to COVID-19. “I don’t want this to go on in perpetuity,” he said.
Topping off at 472 days, it was the longest state of emergency in the county’s history. Prior to the pandemic, such a declaration might normally last a few weeks in response to a hurricane.
The expiration comes as the state of Florida exits the additional Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program in an attempt to get people back to work. The program, a part of the American Rescue Plan signed into law earlier this year by President Joe Biden, provided an additional $300 from the federal government to what states already provided in unemployment benefits. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a critic of the program, announced the exit last week, as a recently passed bill (SB 2006), set to go into effect July 1, eliminates remaining state of emergency declarations and restrictions related to COVID-19.
The federal aid ends as Palm Beach’s job market hovers at just about 4.5% — lower than the state’s average of 4.7% and the 6% national average. Some employers say the additional assistance has kept workers from getting back into the workforce, even as a Palm Beach Post survey showed that 54% of respondents were in favor of raising wages.
“These companies have to pay more,” former Starbucks employee Evans Philias told the Post. “That’s what it’s about. In Florida, it’s hard. We don’t make enough money.”
Earlier, CareerSource Palm Beach County President and CEO Julia Dattolo spoke to Invest: about some of the nuances at play. “Now that the community has opened up and we are open for business, all the jobs have flooded back into the market. We’re trying to get people into those jobs sequentially. Some people may have children at home or might not have had the immunization yet, and since they are not ready to come to work, there is now an imbalance.”
While concerns about the impact of the workforce on the private sector are bound to persist, Kerner said that the financial health of the county was another factor in allowing the state of emergency order to expire. The county government retains anywhere from 5% to 10% of it’s $260 million in CARES Act funding, and will be receiving another $290 million from the American Rescue Plan Act that created the additional federal unemployment benefits, the Palm Beach Post reports.
And while the state of emergency declaration has ended, Kerner is confident that the community will remain vigilant, even as concerns rise over the Delta variant of the coronavirus. “A lot of the success has been because of the participation and awareness and action of the community at large,” Kerner told the Post.
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