LISTEN LIVE

Steve Bousquet

Steve Bousquet has covered state government and politics for three decades at the Sun Sentinel,  Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald. He was the Times' Tallahassee bureau chief from 2005 to 2018 and has also covered city and county politics in Broward County. He has a master's degree in U.S. history from Florida State.

Benjamin Alexander Thaddeus John Horbowy wearing a MAGA cowboy hat
STEVE BOUSQUET/WFSU NEWS

It was so quiet outside state elections headquarters in Tallahassee Monday, you could hear the faraway sound of a freight train whistle. The elections office is indefinitely closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Governor Ron DeSantis has brought in hundreds more state workers. He's added computer servers. He created a paper application system. And still, massive problems persist in the state's online system for filing for unemployment benefits. The mess in the Department of Economic Opportunity has forced the governor to shake things up, but with the latest unemployment numbers jumping sharply and few claims being paid, there are fears things could get worse.

Tampa Bay Times sections
CARL LISCIANDRELLO/WUSF PUBLIC MEDIA

The big news in Florida Monday wasn’t only about the pandemic. It was also about one of the state’s most important news outlets, announcing it would only publish a print edition two days a week.  Partly as a result of the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus, the Tampa Bay Times is doing the unthinkable and the decision is raising concerns and increasing anxiety in the newspaper industry.

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating unprecedented demands for help on virtually every government service in Florida. At the top of the list is the state unemployment assistance program, which is widely regarded as one of the stingiest of any state. 

Within the next decade, 25% of Floridians will be over 60, and so will most new residents relocating to the state. As Florida grays, there’s greater demands on healthcare and related services. State funding has fallen behind. Now Broward County thinks it has an idea to address the coming “Silver Tsunami” but it needs the legislature to help.