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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may be President Donald Trump’s favorite Governor. Trump claims ownership of DeSantis based on a crucial endorsement in his 2018 primary, and DeSantis has fully embraced Trump’s style of politics. DeSantis heeded the White House’s calls to re-open the economy before it was safe for Floridians. He offered to host the Republican Party’s nominating convention despite warnings against mass gatherings. DeSantis’ state is now perhaps the fulcrum on which Trump’s prospects of a second term hinge. Republican has won the White House in a century without Florida’s 29 electoral votes.
So when Florida became the first apparent state this week to withdraw from a Trump-signed order to extend unemployment benefits to workers shut out of jobs because of the coronavirus, more than a few heads turned. In what may be the ground zero of the 2020 election — and in a state that is tied for the tenth-highest unemployment rate in the country — a Republican Party rising star is publicly breaking from his party’s President and ending a $300 bonus for unemployed Floridians.
The reason behind the sudden break is something many state leaders have been warning about since the spring: their state budgets just don’t have enough slack to handle the President’s demands. Earlier this year, Congress approved a first round of federal unemployment back-up to state-run insurance, which could run up to $600. But that plan expired on July 31, and Congress didn’t backfill it. Trump’s response was to propose a $400 plug, as long as states could pony up $100 of it. For every 75 cents offered in Trump’s new plan, states had to come up with 25 cents. An analysis released today from the progressive The Century Foundation finds that seven states have now blown through their federal share of help, and 20 didn’t even start the program because of the prohibitive costs.
DeSantis, whose state is one of the least generous when it comes to unemployment benefits, tried at first to keep the Trump extension plan going. But after four weeks, his team ultimately concluded Florida couldn’t stay in the mix. As Politico’s Gary Fineout writes, the cost to Florida’s budget would have topped $200 million for every two-week pay period at the moment.
States simply don’t have that kind of cash simply at the ready. (Unlike Washington, states can’t pass budgets laden with red ink.) And they shouldn’t expect help coming anytime soon. Republicans have been steadfastly opposed to funding state and local governments since the earliest days of the coronavirus crisis. Big cities are largely the providence of Democratic politicians, and Trump isn’t exactly a fan.
The President was back kicking local leaders again on Thursday morning, along with their pals in Congress who are trying to send them billions in the next pandemic relief package. “Democrats only want BAILOUT MONEY for Blue States that are doing badly. They don’t care about the people, never did!” he tweeted.
What he doesn’t mention? The states that are the most reliant on federal dollars happen to be Red.
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