Driving through our wonderful community and other areas I continually see “Help Wanted” signs. Did you know that the labor force as a percentage of Jackson County’s population is only 42.3% and the State of Florida’s labor force to population is 60.1%? Let that sink in a minute. That is representative of 57.70% of Jackson County’s population is not part of the community’s labor force and 39.90% of Floridians are not a part of Florida’s labor force. In 2000 Jackson County was 53.9% and Florida was 64.2%. That is an 11.60% decrease in Jackson County’s workforce, and it correlates with Jackson County’s reduction of 4.9% in population from 2000-2020.

Our community needs a workforce that is willing, able, and eager to serve the citizens in the community. We as a community need a network of goods and services to meet our needs and demands. We need workers for our ag production, grocery stores, utility companies, contractors, repairmen, department stores, gas stations, restaurants, and all those needs and demands we have as citizens of our great county. One way to fill the gap in the labor force is to allow our youth to work and train them so they will become the next generation of providers for the community. The 2024-2025 Florida Legislation clarified and provided changes for minor employment which will be effective July 1, 2024.

“The bill makes the following changes to hours and timeframes relating to the employment of minors:

  • Clarifies that minors 15 years old or younger may not work more than 15 hours in any one week when school is in session.
  • Provides that minors 16 and 17 years old: o May only work between 6:30 a.m. and 11 p.m. when school is scheduled the following day. May not work for more than 8 hours on any one day when school is scheduled the following day, except when the day of work is on a holiday or Sunday. May work for more than 30 hours per week when the minor’s parent or custodian, the school superintendent, or his or her designee, waives the limitation on a form prescribed by DBPR and provided to the minor’s employer.
  • Provides that minors 15 years of age or younger, instead of 17 years of age or younger, may not work more than 6 consecutive days in any one week. 4 hours continuously without an interval of at least 30 minutes for a meal period. · Provides that minors 16 and 17 years of age who work for 8 hours or more in any one day may not work for more than 4 hours continuously without an interval of at least 30 minutes for a meal period.
  • Provides that the work restrictions do not apply to Minors enrolled in an educational institution who qualify on a hardship basis. Minors 16 and 17 years old who are in a home education program, or are enrolled in an approved virtual instruction program in which the minor is separated from the teacher by time only. Minors in domestic service in private homes or employed by their parents.

. · Clarifies that the DBPR is authorized to grant a waiver of these restrictions.

  • Clarifies that an employer who requires, schedules, or otherwise causes a minor to be employed, permitted, or suffered to work in violation of these provisions commits a violation of the law, punishable as provided in s. 450.141, F.S.”

Also “in order to hire a child to work, the law requires an employer to obtain and keep on record during the entire period of employment proof of the child’s age.”

The benefits of the clarification of the bill were to provide additional opportunities for 16- and 17-year-olds to work and make money without breaking the law and the biggest benefit was to increase the labor force and expand that workforce for generations. I know I would not take anything for the time I spent working. It not only provided gas money but also knowledge and skills I have used my entire life.

In August and November 2024, please vote for leadership who will fight to keep our great community viable and provide a workforce that will service the community’s needs for generations. This will allow future generations to achieve their American Dreams.

I will leave you with those thoughts and that concludes this week’s The Straight Truth With Mary Ann Hutton.