Tuesday's Daily Pulse
What you need to know about Florida today
Unemployed Floridians finding difficulty to release unemployment benefits from hold
Many unemployed Floridians claim a months-old problem has yet to be fixed, and it is keeping them from collecting unemployment benefits. Thousands jobless Floridians currently have a “return to work hold.” The hold often occurs after someone gets a new job or, in some cases, just applies for one. Unemployment expert Vanessa Brito said the hold is not a glitch, but an obstacle. “The company has to report to the Department of Revenue," Brito said. "The Department of Revenue updates their system that cross-matches with DEO." [Source: First Coast News]
Florida Business And Regulation Secretary Beshears steps down
Citing health issues, Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears said he will step down from his post this month. Beshears, a former state representative from North Florida who was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in December 2018, said in a letter to the governor Friday that he has “been dealing with health issues” for the past two months. Beshears’ agency oversees regulated industries such as gambling, alcohol and tobacco. The agency also handles licensing and regulation for a wide range of professions, including barbers, cosmetologists and real estate agents. [Source: News Service of Florida]
Insurers using RICO Act to strike back against alleged fraud
Fed up with what they claim is deliberate claims fraud that is triggering skyrocketing costs — and ever-higher premiums for consumers — two Florida insurance companies have gone on the offensive against alleged fraudsters using a legal tool developed to help federal prosecutors fight organized crime. Lawsuits by Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and Heritage Property & Casualty claim that repair contractors and their affiliates are operating as criminal enterprises as defined by the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. [Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
The ‘waiting game:’ Florida grocery workers aren’t yet getting COVID-19 vaccines
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that frontline, essential workers such as grocery store and agriculture workers be vaccinated along with those 75 and older behind health care staff and long-term care facility residents. But in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has opened up vaccinations for those 65 and older. Restaurant workers were in the CDC’s recommended third group that also included those over 65 and people with underlying medical conditions. [Source: Orlando Sentinel]
Duke Energy Florida proposes plan to revamp energy grid
Duke Energy Florida is asking regulators for permission to begin implementing a sweeping plan centered around renewable energy. Filed late Thursday, its proposal would revamp its energy grid and hasten the retirement of its coal plants. “This agreement provides a path to minimize bill increases, while continuing to make smart investments that will offer customers greater reliability, cleaner energy alternatives and innovative technology,” said Catherine Stempien, Duke Energy Florida president. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]
ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:
› Snowcat Ridge, Florida’s only snow park, closes for the season
If you wanted to experience snow in Florida, your chance will have to wait a bit longer. Snowcat Ridge Alpine Snow Park is closing for the season after opening on Nov. 20. Florida’s first snow park can only operate while temperatures remain low enough to keep the snow frozen. “We’re closing our season early on Monday, January 18th,” a company official said. “It’s not due to permitting, but we’re a weather-dependent park and getting ready for our next season.”
› Will Wynwood lose its cool quotient? More chains are coming in early 2021
Despite a focus on home-grown brands, Wynwood is getting a new trio of national names. Foot Locker, Sweetgreen and bridal shop Grace Loves Lace plan to open by March, said Albert Garcia, chairperson of the Wynwood Business Improvement District. Foot Locker and Sweetgreen will be located at 2621 NW Second Ave., while Grace Loves Lace is opening at 310 NW 25th St., according to plans submitted to the Wynwood Design Review Committee in January.
› Pinellas economy took $2 billion hit from coronavirus tourism losses, bureau says
Analysts with Pinellas County’s tourism bureau estimate the tourism industry’s annual economic impact was down more than $2 billion during the most recent fiscal year because of the pandemic. The latest report from Visit St. Pete/Clearwater said the fiscal year, which ended in October, showed that local tourism had an economic impact of $6.6 billion, rather than the nearly $9 billion it was previously.
› Stein Mart has $15 million or less for unsecured creditors
Stein Mart Inc. has enough money to pay off secured and priority claims, but it won’t be able to pay most of the $217 million to $421 million in remaining unsecured claims against the company, according to its Chapter 11 reorganization plan filed Jan. 15. The Jacksonville-based fashion retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Aug. 12 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida, Jacksonville Division.
In 2020, as an uneasy world confronted an uncertain future, University of Florida researchers joined what has been called the pandemic pivot, veering from decades-long research programs to tackle any aspect of the pandemic to which they could lend expertise. Read about how these scientific warriors responded to what likely will be viewed as the greatest science challenge of a generation.
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