The Highlands News-Sun recently published an editorial by the Orlando Sentinel that berated Senator Rick Scott. His offense? Scott dared to suggest that Congress increased Federal unemployment benefits by too much in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The recent flurry of “Paycheck Protection Program” (PPP) Loans giving many small and mid-sized businesses (and their employees) a temporary financial lifeline is proving that Scott’s concern was totally justified. The Sentinel’s harshly critical editorial is either utterly misinformed, driven by politics, or both.

Over the last month, the SBA has loaned over $500 billion to millions of businesses with 500 employees or less. Under this PPP Loan program, at least 75% of the loan proceeds must be used to pay employees’ wages. As a result, many of the businesses that took advantage of these PPP Loans are now making a major push to put their furloughed employees back on payroll. This loan program is not only designed to give employers the funds to pay financially stressed employees, but to also encourage furloughed workers to come back to work so businesses will be able to operate as the economy starts opening back up.

CPA professional chat rooms across the country are currently being inundated with postings complaining that many of their small and mid-sized business clients are having an extremely hard time getting furloughed workers to come back on the payroll. The most commonly cited reason by far is that the furloughed workers are understandably reluctant to give up their unemployment benefits that too frequently equal or exceed their expected paycheck. This disincentive to accept re-employment is already slowing down any post-COVID-19 economic recovery which, in turn, will hurt the long-term employment prospects of virtually all current and future employees.

When the Senate earlier voted to increase combined State and Federal unemployment benefits to a level above the average paycheck amount currently earned by most rank-and-file workers, Senator Scott along with three other informed Republican Senators warned the voting public of the unintended negative consequences that we are now seeing. Yet, when Scott recently again reminded his supporters that his earlier warnings were accurate, the Sentinel’s editorial attributed the worse possible motive for the Senator’s position. The editorial stated that: “To Florida’s junior senator, the unemployed are today’s welfare queens, out to game the system and cheat the taxpayer.” That statement is unbelievably inflammatory, grossly misrepresents the reasoning behind Senator Scott’s position, and is intellectually lazy. Real journalism deserves better.

Walter H. Nunnallee

Avon Park