Gloomy clouds above the Sunshine State? Look for the silver lining!

silver-sunlit-cloudsWe know times are hard on everyone in the United States: the national jobless rate is climbing, foreclosures are prevalent, and claims for services such as food stamps are skyrocketing. The state of Florida, however, seems to be hit especially hard.

• The national jobless rate is 9.7% for the 2009 year (which is high compared with the 5.8% rate in 2008). Florida’s jobless rate came in at 10.7% for the month of August, which is considerably higher than the national rate. Read more on national jobless rates in a report from the US Department of Labor.
• In terms of median income, Florida was the only state in which the median income decreased in 2007 and 2008 (before adjustments for inflation). Read the US Census Bureau report on income trends for more info.
• Over 2.3 million Americans experienced foreclosure in 2008, with nearly half of those foreclosures coming from just four states:  California, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona. You can read more about foreclosure rates here.

These hardships are among a myriad of reasons that the Sunshine State could be considered to have some gloomy cloud cover. However, it is important to remember that every storm cloud has a silver lining: new programs and initiatives are being announced often, all with the goal of offering needy citizens a hand-up. In particular, one proposal regarding unemployment benefits caught our attention:

A plan pending approval by the US Senate would extend jobless benefits to needy Floridians for an extra 20 weeks beyond the normal coverage time. The breakdown of extended services would include 14 weeks of additional benefits for all 50 states, with an additional six weeks of benefits for states with unemployment rates above 8.5%. Florida’s high unemployment rate makes it more than eligible for this advantageous new plan.

Although ironic that the silver lining in Florida’s storm clouds is only possible because of the state’s current dire unemployment circumstances, we are pleased that this plan (if approved) will be able to help so many struggling families and individuals. Twenty weeks of additional jobless benefits, if they are needed, could potentially keep families in their own homes and prevent them from needing shelter or other emergency services. Perhaps you will find this odd, since providing shelter is a part of what we do; but we’d actually prefer it that way.