Low State Unemployment Benefits to Blame for Loss of Federal Benefits

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Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 5:27 PM EDT
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(WCJB) - Floridians eligible to receive the extra $300 a week in unemployment through the Lost Wages Assistance Program will see their last check this week.

Florida’s low unemployment benefits and short period of eligibility are to blame.

To qualify for the $300 a week Lost Wages Assistance check, states had to pay 25 percent of their total unemployment claims, but Florida has fallen below that threshold.

“It really just comes down to numbers and percentages,” said State Senator Jason Pizzo.

State benefits are rapidly running out for Floridians, which means the state is picking up a smaller and smaller portion of the tab.

“The majority of people started unemployment filings in March, April and May. So all of those people, if they were qualified or eligible for state unemployment assistance in March, April, May, all of those people are left out,” said Pizzo.

The state pays a maximum of $275 a week for up to 12 weeks.

They’re some of the lowest benefits in the country.

“That’s where we are because of our short window. And what compounds the problem is not having an additional source like the $300 on top of only $275, really compounds and exacerbates how bad of a situation we have here,” said Pizzo.

Labor groups like the AFL-CIO hope there’s still a chance the Governor might extend unemployment weeks or raise benefits through executive action.

It’s something he’s so far resisted and said would exceed his authority.

“Governor DeSantis, try to increase benefits, try to increase the weeks that people can be eligible and let’s see who files the lawsuit saying you don’t have the power to do that,” said Florida AFL-CIO Director of Politics and Public Policy Dr. Rich Templin.

To date, the state has paid out more than $3.1 billion from its unemployment trust fund.

Meanwhile, the federal government has paid out more than $13 billion to Floridians since the start of the pandemic.

Some state Republicans are now joining the calls for increased unemployment benefits.

Both the House and Senate budget chairs said last week that they believe the current benefits are too low and hope the incoming Legislature will take up the issue this fall or next spring.

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