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Some on unemployment refuse to come back to work; others still wait to get paid

MIAMI – An issue for some companies in South Florida: Employees who had to be laid off are choosing to stay unemployed, even though businesses are now reopening.

May Shigetomi, owner of the Yakko-San restaurant in North Miami Beach, said she is down a sushi chef, a line cook and a food runner.

She has jobs to fill and paycheck protection money to pay, but a veteran head chef chose not to come back, saying he was being paid as much not to work.

“He got $850 and he can stay home. And we pay $850 and he has to work," Shigetomi said. “So he chooses to stay home.”

Shigetomi said she knows a list of former workers who receive state and federal unemployment checks and have declined to return to work.

The state’s Department of Economic Opportunity does say on its website that jobless benefits will not be available for people who refuse to return to work.

The fact that some people may try to do that has to be painful to hear for people still navigating Florida’s dysfunctional unemployment process, desperate for any income.

“It’s just day by day trying to figure out where the next dollar is coming from,” said Jesse Tsygan, of Pompano Beach, who is worried about eviction.

The state’s jobless claims dashboard says that 96% of eligible claimants have been paid. The problem is that the questions on the dated computer form don’t clearly reflect current pandemic eligibility.

“The numbers have improved of claimants paid, but the existing cases that we’re dealing with that are desperate and suffering that have not been completed are only getting worse,” said state Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-North Miami.

Pizzo said the state and the Department of Economic Opportunity are now going case by case through the people who have applied and have yet to receive payment.

On Thursday, the U.S. Labor Department reported that 223,927 Floridians filed new jobless claims last week, slightly above the 223,082 a week earlier.

Those numbers suggest some stabilization in job losses as Florida businesses have started reopening amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Though only California and New York had more new claims filed than Florida last week.

Across the country, more than 2.4 million laid-off workers filed for jobless benefits last week, the government says, marking the ninth straight week of outsize figures since the pandemic forced millions of businesses to close their doors and shrink their workforces.

Nearly 39 million people have applied for benefits since mid-March.


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