Coronavirus: Gov. DeSantis announces change to unemployment benefits, restaurants hopeful applications will increase

JACKSONVILLE, Fl. — Governor Ron DeSantis announced the job search requirement suspension will end after May for those on unemployment.

That means Florida residents will have to prove they are actively searching for a job to stay on unemployment starting in June.

The requirement was suspended during the pandemic because of decreased job openings.

The Governor said now the economy is showing signs of revival and there’s several opportunities.

“I think it’s pretty clear now we have an abundance of job openings.

If you go to businesses they want to hire people. Particularly in hospitality — restaurants and all these things.”

It’s a welcomed announcement for restaurant owners who are struggling to hire now that crowds are headed back out to eat and to bars.

TacoLu in Jacksonville Beach was packed on Cinco de Mayo.

Owner Don Nicol said it was one of the busiest holidays he’s seen as owner and the busiest day of the year for the restaurant.

“Now we’re as busy as we’ve been. The weather has been great and we’re trying to keep up,” Nicol said. “I love it. I love being here. I’m here everyday, but it’s just a tough day. It’s a long day.”

What makes it more difficult, is a lack of staff. Nicol said he’s hiring for back of house positions, but applications aren’t coming in. It’s a problem facing many in the restaurant and hospitality industry.

The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association said continued unemployment benefits are keeping some from applying.

Nicol said wages aren’t a problem for his staff, but smaller restaurants and bars like Green Room Brewery And Mambos Cuban Cafe tell Action News Jax they’ve been forced to increase wages in order to entice applicants.

Owners said if wages increase, menu prices would as well.

A change in unemployment benefits could be part of the solution.