About 40 Floridians rallied at the old Capitol Tuesday to demand that Gov. Charlie Crist expand the states unemployment compensation program by executive order.
Leaders of the rally, organized by a number of liberal organizations including Florida New Majority and South Florida Jobs with Justice, said that the Legislature was standing in the way of the state obtaining more than $440 million in federal funds.
Organizers are encouraging Crist to back the state recalculating eligibility for unemployment benefits -- opening up more dollars to part-time workers and workers who resign their positions due to family matters.
Crist, who is running for the U.S. Senate without party affiliation and trailing behind Republican nominee Marco Rubio in the polls, is considering issuing the order.
High unemployment continues to plague the Sunshine State. The Agency for Workforce Innovation (AWI) announced earlier in the month that the unemployment rate rose to 11.7 percent in August, an increase from July when it stood at 11.5 percent. Out of the 9,229,000 workers in the pool in Florida, 1,084,000 remain unemployed.
The national rate also increased to 9.5 percent -- but 55 of Floridas 67 counties have higher unemployment rates.
Despite the states drastic rise in unemployment during Crists term as governor -- the rate stood at 3.7 percent when Crist took office back in January, 2007 -- the organizers and speakers rallied against the Republican-controlled Legislature instead of at the governor.
You are the faces of what this is all about, said Mike Williams, president of the Florida AFL-CIO, to the crowd. The Florida Legislature and the leadership weve had have turned their backs on those who have lost their jobs.
Florida is a state founded on the belief that hard work will bring you, your family and your community opportunity, said Badili Jones, a political and alliance officer with Florida New Majority.
Well, the state Legislature is getting in the way of hard-earned opportunity for hundreds of thousands of Floridians, added Jones who has been affiliated with such outfits as the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, a self-described Marxist/Leninist group. We are asking Crist to stand on the side of the unemployed and change our system.
The rally ended to the sounds of a guitar player singing the blues and then the rally attendees headed to the new Capitol, to attempt to plead their case to Crist.
Crist issued a statement later on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, I expressed to Floridas congressional delegation and other key members of Congress my strong support for extending the deadline of the Florida Back to Work program," said Crist. "Funded by Recovery Act dollars through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families' (TANF) emergency contingency fund, this worthy initiative has already helped more than 1,000 employers put more than 5,300 Floridians back to work.
The program is currently set to end on Sept. 30, but with a congressional extension, Florida would have more time to fully utilize the $200 million already authorized for the Back to Work program in our state," added Crist. "I urge Congress to vote in favor of the extension to support Floridas employers, create thousands of additional jobs and help reinvigorate our economy.