Rep. Shevrin Jones is asking Gov. Ron DeSantis to suspend evictions and utility shut-offs throughout the state as residents continue dealing with the economic effects of the new coronavirus.
Several public health recommendations have been issued aimed at curtailing public interaction. For instance, on Monday President Donald Trump recommended Americans avoid gatherings of more than 10 people for a period of 15 days.
In prior weeks, states had already begun shutting down large events. But some states and cities have also started to shut down bars and restaurants to in-person dining.
Tuesday morning, DeSantis said bars would be closing at 5 p.m. that day, then would be shut down for 30 days. DeSantis also said restaurants would be limited to 50% capacity, with patrons needing to be seated six feet apart.
Several localities are expected to go further. Miami-Dade will reportedly announce restaurants are closed to sit-down patrons Tuesday as well.
Many workers have been asked to work from home. But with an economic slowdown being forecast for the next few months, many worry the impact could be more severe: from workers losing their jobs to some stores or companies shutting down entirely.
In a letter to the Governor, Jones says that reality could lead to Floridians being unable to pay the bills amid a loss of income.
“Many businesses will lay off workers, and many workers do not have the savings to withstand a lapse in income,” Jones argued.
“That lack of economic protection is a vulnerability which may be accompanied by other factors such as physical ailments, age, lack of insurance, lack of access to affordable health care, physical or mental disability, housing insecurity, or numerous other impactful dynamics.”
Florida is under a state of emergency due to the virus’s spread. Some municipalities, such as Miami-Dade and Orange counties, have already suspended evictions for residents due to late rent payments.
But Jones wants DeSantis to ensure those protections extend to all Floridians.
“I am formally requesting your consideration, as a part of your Emergency Declaration, that you suspend utility shut offs for Florida residents at this time,” Jones said.
“Shutting off electricity and water during this time, based on an inability to pay, endangers the lives of our most vulnerable residents. Additionally, I am asking you to provide a moratorium and halt to any and all residential evictions as we monitor and work through this crisis. The people of Florida will suffer if these actions are not taken, and I urge you to have empathy for these people rather than penalize them for their economic state.”
As of Tuesday morning, Florida has 192 people who have tested positive for the virus, with 173 people of those being Florida residents. Another 558 individuals are currently being monitored.
The death rate for those who test positive for the virus has recently sat above 3%. However, those calculations do not include individuals who may have contracted the virus, but are asymptomatic and thus survive without incident. Including those individuals would lower the death rate, but it’s unclear how many such individuals there are worldwide.
Most who do show symptoms develop a fever or cough and may have trouble breathing, though they do recover. But older individuals and those with underlying health risks are susceptible to developing more severe symptoms.