Governor looks to E-Verify to help Floridians recover jobs

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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
March 27, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Statistics released Friday show Florida’s unemployment rate held steady at 2.8% in February.

While the state would normally be celebrating a second month of record low unemployment, the impact of the coronavirus isn’t reflected in the February stats.

“Everything that we're doing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 is having an impact on businesses," said Ken Lawson, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

The state is seeing tens of thousands of new unemployment claims every week.

130,000 this past week alone.

The state will get a better picture of the true impact of coronavirus on the state’s employment rates when the March figures are released in late April, but the Governor is already looking ahead.

“What does the next part of the strategy look like? I think that will be very important for these unemployment numbers," said Governor Ron DeSantis.

And the governor opined on a possible asset awaiting his signature.

“E-Verify and workforce verification, that could actually be something that's more important now given that people are going to be needing jobs," said DeSantis.

The E-Verify legislation would require all new hires have their immigration status checked through the federal system starting January 1 of next year.

E-Verify could mean more job opportunities for Florida citizens, but it's estimated between four and five percent of the state’s total workforce are undocumented immigrants.

“Now everybody is going to be a newly hired employee. So everybody is going to be impacted by E-Verify," said Kara Gross with the Florida chapter of the ACLU.

Gross worries leaving as many as 550,000 undocumented workers permanently unemployable all at once could be a disaster within itself.

“Everybody who knows E-Verify understands that it's harmful to Florida's economy. Why would we be doing anything right now that is more harmful to Florida's economy when we're under these conditions?” said Gross.

She's also concerned it could slow hiring for citizens as well.

"Businesses, when they're rehiring workers, they need to have the flexibility to increase their workforce immediately and this is going to create more and more obstacles for everybody," said Gross.

Employers can opt to keep I-9 forms of new hires on file, in lieu of using the federal system, but those records could be requested for verification at any time by the Attorney General, FDLE, a state attorney or statewide prosecutor.