What’s Going On With Unemployment Reform in Florida? | Opportunity For All Floridians

What’s Going On With Unemployment Reform in Florida?

Next week, March 1, will mark the one year anniversary of the first cases of COVID-19 being reported in the state of Florida. Since that time, more than 30,000 Florida residents have lost their lives to the virus. And as restaurants, hotels, and tourism business dried up as people tried to stay safe, Florida’s economy took a deep dive into a recession. Millions of Floridians lost their jobs and filed for unemployment benefits from the state’s unemployment trust fund. Unemployment reform became a key topic for many of Florida’s leaders. The question is: what’s going on with unemployment reform now, a year later?

In fact, since March 15, 2021 til today, Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity, the agency tasked with processing unemployment claims in Florida has received more than 6.4 million claims from more than 3.1 million unique claimants.

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As thousands of people tried to file for unemployment benefits in the early weeks of the pandemic, public reporting showed that very few people were able to get the website to work. And those who were able to file were not receiving benefits.

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We also learned that the benefits people were entitled to receive some of the lowest in the country:

➡️ A maximum of $275 per week (most people in Florida receive much less than this). The average in most states is closer to $400.

➡️ Benefits capped at 12 weeks. (Most states have a 26 week cap).

➡️ The SLOWEST state to pay unemployment during the coronavirus crisis.

➡️ No provisions for self-employed (so-called “gig workers”) to buy into the unemployment insurance system.

The reality is that the state legislature has not raised the maximum weekly benefit since 1998. In the meantime, the cost of living in several key Florida metro areas has risen by up to 61%.

Source: [Bureau of Labor Statistics: CPI, Miami MSACPI, Tampa MSA]

Will you take action?

Sign now to tell our lawmakers in Tallahassee to modernize Florida’s unemployment system.

Next week, the Florida Legislature will meet again. Will they address any of these pressing issues with our unemployment system?

Legislators have introduced 5 unemployment reform bills — 4 in the Florida Senate and 1 in the Florida House. 

These bills have some differences, but share many similarities:

Senator Linda Stewart

Senate Bill 910 (Sen. Linda Stewart)

Weekly Minimums (currently set at $32)⬆️ Raises to $125
Weekly Maximums (currently set at $275/week⬆️ Raises to $400
Annual Benefit Maximum (currently $6,325)⬆️ Raises to $14,800
Definition of “Florida Average Unemployment Rate”Removes the 3rd quarter portion
Duration of benefits is limited to 12 weeks if this state’s average unemployment rate is at or below 5 percent⬆️ Raises the minimum from 12 to 26 weeks
Up to a maximum of 23 weeks if this state’s average unemployment rate equals or exceeds 10.5 percent⬆️ Raises the maximum to 37 weeks

Senator Randolph Bracy

Senate Bill 466 (Senator Bracy)

Weekly Minimums (currently set at $32)↔️ Keeps current $32
Weekly Maximums (currently set at $275/week⬆️ Raises to $400
Annual Benefit Maximum (currently $6,325)⬆️ Raises to $10,400
Definition of “Florida Average Unemployment Rate”unchanged
Duration of benefits is limited to 12 weeks if this state’s average unemployment rate is at or below 5 percent⬆️ removes the sliding scale of eligibility based on unemployment rates and sets a 26 week cap
Up to a maximum of 23 weeks if this state’s average unemployment rate equals or exceeds 10.5 percent⬆️ removes the sliding scale of eligibility based on unemployment rates and sets a 26 week cap

Senator Annette Taddeo

Senate Bill 644 (Senator Taddeo)

Weekly Minimums (currently set at $32)⬆️ Raises to $200
Weekly Maximums (currently set at $275/week⬆️ Raises to $600
Annual Benefit Maximum (currently $6,325)⬆️ Raises to $27,600
Definition of “Florida Average Unemployment Rate”unchanged
Duration of benefits is limited to 12 weeks if this state’s average unemployment rate is at or below 5 percent⬆️ raises the minimum from 12 to 26 weeks
Up to a maximum of 23 weeks if this state’s average unemployment rate equals or exceeds 10.5 percent⬆️ raises to 46 weeks

Senator Powell, Rep Anna Eskamani and Rep Ben Diamond

Senate Bill 592 (Senator Powell) / House Bill 207 (Reps Eskamani and Diamond)

Weekly Minimums (currently set at $32)⬆️ Raises to $100
Weekly Maximums (currently set at $275/week⬆️ Raises to $500
Annual Benefit Maximum (currently $6,325)Annual maximum deleted (see maximum duration)
Definition of “Florida Average Unemployment Rate”Removes this definition
Duration of benefits is limited to 12 weeks if this state’s average unemployment rate is at or below 5 percent⬆️ removes the sliding scale of eligibility based on unemployment rates and sets a 26 week cap
Up to a maximum of 23 weeks if this state’s average unemployment rate equals or exceeds 10.5 percent⬆️ removes the sliding scale of eligibility based on unemployment rates and sets a 26 week cap

The bottom line is this: all of these bills represent a major departure from the current system which has prevented so many Floridians from accessing much needed help during this economic crisis.

Will you take action?

Sign now to tell our lawmakers in Tallahassee to modernize Florida’s unemployment system.