Florida saves money, cuts prison staff and unemployment benefits
By Roger Caldwell
Governor Scott is telling the country that he runs a tight ship in Florida, and in 2016 there will be a surplus of over a half billion dollars in the treasury. Republicans who control and run everything in the state are excited and putting in their pet projects for the 2016 session. In certain circles, the governor can stick out his chest and justify that his fiscal policies are working.
With all this surplus cash in Florida’s treasury, it would appear that our governor is not robbing Peter to pay Paul. But in our prisons, they are chronically understaffed, and one in eight unemployed Floridians received benefits from June 2014 to June 2015. Maybe our governor is preoccupied with saving money for the state; therefore, certain segments in the state are not that important.
The lack of staff in prisons is costing the state millions in overtime, and auditors with the National Institute of Corrections are calling the condition an “emergency.” An emergency is when chronic understaffing results in facilities falling below safe staffing levels, and presents a danger to the public, staff, and inmates. Unfavorable working conditions are contributing to high turnover rate of new hires, which are dropping out before they complete their training.
The Department of Corrections budget has been cut by $500 million in the last seven years. In order to correct this problem, it would require a significant commitment of attention and resources to change the conditions. The Corrections Secretary received an additional $17.5 million last year, but after hiring 2,200 corrections officers, they lost 1,400 for a net gain of 800 officers.
In another report last week, the National Employment Law Project ranks Florida at the bottom of the list of unemployed people who actually receive state unemployment insurance. From June 2014 to June 2015, just one in eight unemployed people in Florida received benefits according to the report. This appears to be a new low in the state under Scott, but six years ago, 30 percent of those out of work received weekly payments.
One of the biggest problems in Florida for unemployed people to receive state unemployment benefits was the rollout of Connect, an online filing system for unemployment.
When this website was launched, applicants experienced months of delays in receiving benefits, and many did not have access to a computer. Many Floridians have been left out in the cold, even though they qualify for unemployment insurance.
Under Governor Scott, the poor have been ignored and ostracized by people in control and those with decision-making authority. Our governor has been slow to correct unemployment benefits because every dollar that is not paid out for unemployment insurance is left in the treasury. When applicants get the run around, because the system is not working properly, there is no one to complain too.
The Florida prison is sitting on a time bomb and at any time it could explode. The unemployment insurance issue is not fair. These two problems need immediate attention from our governor and legislature. Out of mind, out of sight is the wrong way to solve problems in Florida.