Deal costs Florida millions for joblessBy JOHN BALZ
© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 29, 2001
WASHINGTON -- The House paid for part of the $11-billion in disaster relief it promised New York by taking $142-million in unemployment assistance away from Florida on Wednesday.
The deal was officially enacted on a procedural vote in connection with a $318-billion defense appropriation package that includes money for the military, recovery efforts and homeland defense.
Florida delegation members, many of whom had no idea that their state was losing tens of millions, will once again be looking to C.W. Bill Young, R-Largo, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, for relief.
"We'll replace the funds," Young said.
For now though, the money is gone. Before the Thanksgiving recess, President Bush, the Republican House leadership and members of the New York delegation worked out an arrangement to use $1.5-billion set aside for National Emergency Grants in 2002 to help pay for the disaster relief and recovery efforts in New York City. The remaining $9.5-billion will come from other government programs or from deficit spending.
State governments distribute the National Emergency Grant money to workers who have lost their jobs in federally declared emergencies or "economic dislocations." The Rules Committee, which set the guidelines for the debate on the appropriations bill, gave its blessing to the transfer of funds late Tuesday.
Florida was the second-largest recipient of funds in the program, behind California. Young said that he was not involved in the negotiations but that he would reinstate the funds for all states.
Others were not pleased with how the deal was brokered.
"As far as I know, this was a last minute deal put together by the White House and the Republican leadership to appease New Yorkers at the expense of Florida and other states," said Rep. Jim Davis, D-Tampa.
The funding shortfall was just one of the Democratic irritations Wednesday.
Many were upset over the debate guidelines set by Rules Committee Republicans and tried to use the unemployment grant losses to persuade Florida Republicans to vote for a new set of rules.
All of the delegation's 15 Republicans voted for the rules that cost the state $142-million and seven Democrats voted against them. One Democrat did not vote.
An amendment to transfer the money back into the emergency grants failed late Wednesday, also on a party line vote.
In October, the number of unemployed in Florida jumped to 384,900, an increase of more than 9 percent from August and September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
-- John Balz can be reached at (202) 463-0579 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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