House Republicans on Tuesday rejected Democratic efforts to increase unemployment assistance, days after Gov. Ron DeSantis opposed boosting benefits that are among the lowest in the nation.
The House voted 77-39 to reject a proposed amendment that would have raised maximum unemployment payments by $100 a week. It also voted 76-39 to kill a separate proposal that would have increased the number of weeks benefits are offered.
The votes came as the House took up a wide-ranging proposal (HB 1463) that includes upgrading the state’s online unemployment system, which largely crashed last spring after becoming inundated with claims during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill would include starting to move the troubled CONNECT system to a cloud-based service.
At a maximum of $275, Florida has the stingiest unemployment benefit system in the nation. It as the third-lowest weekly unemployment benefit behind Mississippi ($235), Arizona ($240), and is tied with Tennessee and Alabama. But all four of those states extend benefits for up to 26 weeks, while Florida does so just for 12.
Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, sought to boost the maximum unemployment benefit from $275 a week to $375 a week. She said the pandemic showed that current payments are not enough for unemployed people to survive and get back on their feet.
“This is the right thing to do,” Eskamani said. “We gave a big tax break to businesses. The least we can do is make sure workers get a fair share, an opportunity to have benefits they can actually survive on and benefits that will make us reflect more of the national average.”
The tax break Eskamani cited was in a bill (SB 50) that DeSantis signed into law late Monday. The bill will require out-of-state online retailers to collect sales taxes on purchases made by Floridians. The estimated $1 billion a year in revenue will initially be used to replenish an unemployment compensation trust fund that is ordinarily funded through a tax on businesses.
The Senate Appropriations Committee last week approved a proposal (SB 1906) to increase jobless benefits, which were cut in 2011 to blunt a major increase in unemployment taxes on businesses. DeSantis, however, expressed opposition to such an increase.
“Increase benefits? Look, no, I mean, I think we’re getting people back to work,” DeSantis said when asked by a reporter during an appearance in Lakeland.
“You see or hear the stories, there’s businesses (that) need more. You know, our goal is to get people back to work. I think there’s a lot of demand right now,” DeSantis continued. “I’d like to get that unemployment rate below 4 percent if we can. But it’s going to take some of these inhibitions being moved off, and us being able to operate all of our industries. But there is demand in the economy for hiring, and that’s a good thing, much different than it was a year ago.”
On the House floor Tuesday, Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Sarasota, said the “premise” of Eskamani’s amendment to increase benefits was misleading.
“There are help wanted signs all over the state,” Gregory said.
“As we travel around the state, we see them,” he continued. “You hear of Southeast Florida, right now, and take a job in a service industry in a restaurant and get a $400 signing bonus just to take the job. There are jobs that are double the minimum wage available in my district now.”
As part of budget talks over the weekend, the House and Senate agreed to put $56.6 million into the 2021-2022 spending plan for continued work needed to operate the troubled unemployment system. Meanwhile, another $36 million has been proposed to overhaul the CONNECT system.
Dane Eagle, executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity, has said that retaining the CONNECT system, which cost $81 million to set up a decade ago, is “not an option.”
–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida and FlaglerLive
Rick G says
Yes… Governor… lets restrict what we pay the unemployed and the length of time for benefits to force them back into the minimum wage jobs so those who are paying those minimum wages can make even more money… Sounds like a Republican to me…
So it’s better to sit home and get “free” money rather than make an honest living by working?? That’s not a very wise mentality. People should be getting jobs, everyone is hiring, including me. I’m hiring at 15-22 an hour and it’s not good enough because why would they??? They get to sit in their rear ends and collect unemployment. What’s going to end up happening is unemployment is going to run out, the real world is gonna kick in, and all these folks are gonna be scrambling for jobs. Guess what??? Now it’s on my terms… instead of 22 I’ll pay 12 because I will have 200 applicants all fighting for 2 positions. That’s small minded. We have to look at the bigger picture. America was built on hard work. We should not be condoning a world of getting every nothing for nothing. The well is eventually going to run dry.
PC Mom says
I totally agree with you Heather!!! People sitting home getting their “free” money are in for a rude awakening once their money runs out!!!
Andy B says
Oh PLEASE WALMART, TARGET AND Hammock Beach have open job listings. Why pay slugs to stay home on the couch?
People want the government to support them, so I’m glad they didn’t raise it. Get these lazy people off the couch and out to work. There are plenty of jobs out there, take your pick.
I guess you’ve never been unemployed.
I have been and I agree completely with Shelly.
Gov. DeSantis like all Republicans refuse to want people they want to vote for them a decent wages or even a higher unemployment that most people had to file during the COVID virus. Florida has the lowest wages and unemployment benefits in the US.
Gov. DeSantis and the Republicans are too stupid to realize if they allowed people to earn a decent wage they would need food stamps or wouldn’t file for other state benefits, which would lower the liability on those programs.
No they just want people to live in poverty levels, but please don’t they will be out beginning you to vote for them when they are up for re-election.
And it is a bunch a crap that people would rather than collect unemployment than go to work, no one can live on this states lousy unemployment benefits.
“…no one can live on this states lousy unemployment benefits.”
It’s not meant for anyone to live on. It’s meant to help one keep body and soul together until getting a job.
OK. . . Let’s do some quick math:
$275 Florida’s unemployment a week= a whopping $6.87 an hour for a 40 hour week, for only 12 weeks. Could you/your family live off that, really? Or, are you just the lazy scum Republicans say you are?
Republicans say you should simply go to work for Walmart.
$440 Walmart’s starting pay is $11.00 an hour. But wait, if you have just “one” child. who is not in school yet . . that child care alone could cost you a minimum of $5.00 an hour. Plus, you need to add on the cost of transportation to and from work at say a minimum of 50 cents an hour. Then there are the required payroll taxes, etc. Essentially meaning that fabulous job at Walmart would have you making less than $5.00 an hour NET.
The point I am trying to make here is that there are “NO” simple, reasonable options for the working poor. And, not one of us should be judging them as lazy! Those who frequently make such accusations really should look into their own hearts for understanding and compassion. . . and, maybe even a helping hand.
down south says
everyone should think more than twice about starting a family and having absolutely no job skills to support the new family. This is especially true in FL where it relies on the hospitality industry and low wages are expected. sorry but being restaurant server is nice work and pays the bills not necessarily a great trade in FL.
Starting March 13, hourly workers stocking shelves and fulfilling customers’ home delivery and curbside pickup orders in stores will receive a starting rate of $13 to $19 an hour, based on the store’s location and market, Walmart (WMT) said. Last year, the company raised wages for 165,000 store workers in management roles to a starting rate of $18 an hour.
Walmart will still maintain its $11 minimum wage, putting it behind some other big chains.
I made $11.05 per hour at Walmart and that was 10 years ago. Plus Walmart offers management positions for those that show the initiative.
Walmart’s store managers make $175,000 a year on average. Those are the facts.
Sooooo, I hear the typical Republican FOX talking points, and here is the hypocrisy :
1. If you do not have a good job, don’t have children. How Incredibly Simplistic!
* Republicans generally are against birth control, especially free birth control.
* Republicans are generally against adoption by the gay community.
* What about circumstances such as losing that good job AFTER you have children, or you suddenly become a single parent AFTER a divorce or death?
2. Poor people are too lazy/ignorant .
* Republicans generally support the racial segregation that results from using tax payer dollars to fund religious/private schools instead of public schools.
* People of color face discrimination DAILY, especially when it comes to being selected for ANY job beyond scut work. I absolutely know this from my 20 year experience as a recruiter.
3. Poor people have children that weren’t raised “right”. I love this one!
* Raised according to whose definition of “right”. . . yours Mr./Mrs. Perfect? You insist that “those people” work, but that leaves their children to fend for themselves. You insist that each fetus be “born” . . . BUT, your insistence in supporting that effort ends at the moment of birth.
I could go on and on, but the complete Hypocrisy “should ” be clear to all those who are willing to “think” beyond their own prejudices.
David Schaefer says
A lot of the far right republicans are nothing but useless jerks Jim Jordan, Ted Cruz , Louie Gohmert, Marjorie Green, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, Mitch McConnell, Rick Scott, Marco Rubio and Deathsantis. I really hope America wakes up from their nap and vote these people OUT OF OFFICE.
You forgot the Democrat useless jerks. Nancy Pelosi, Jerry Nadler, Maxine Waters, Adam Schiff, Gavin Newsom, and Andrew Cuomo. Need term limits!
Hones tOne says
Unemployment benefits have been at a maximum of $275.00 a week since 1992. At that time the national minimum wage was $4.25. It made sense then but certainly not now. The reign of Gov Get off Scott free ushered into law in 2012 led by a Republican controlled legislature lowered the number to 12 weeks. The bill passed initiated only 12 weeks of benefits if the unemployment rate is at 5% or below. It would rise to 23 weeks, if the unemployment rate raised to 10.5% or higher. Florida lawmakers cut benefits to blunt any massive increase in unemployment taxes. The belief is that companies would be less likely to relocate to or expand in Florida because of possible looming unemployment tax hikes in the future. It’s no wonder that the state unemployment trust fund ran out of money in 2020 during COVID 19. A revised bill can be re introduced as early as next Fall. Options to consider in the next bill might be offering a maximum of 26 weeks at 375.00 or even higher but with a descending paid benefits monthly to encourage recipients to find work more rapidly. No one wants to devastate their credit during a short unemployment span , Businesses also want you as well to be able to pay your bills on time so they meet their bottom line as well. This involves forming a partnership between employers and employees to find an answer so that nobody loses.