There will be no increase in unemployment benefits for Floridians this year.
Legislation that would have boosted the top unemployment benefits by $100 per week has died because the state House declined to take up a bipartisan Senate bill to that effect on the final day of the annual legislative session.
That means jobless people in the state will continue to eke by on no more than $275 per week — which, when combined with the nation’s shortest eligibility period, ranks among the most miserly benefit in the country. [It’s been 24 years since Florida last raised the benefit, doing so by a maximum of $25 a week in 1997. In inflation-adjusted dollars, today’s $275 would have been equivalent to $168 in 1997. If the state’s benefit had kept up with inflation, the $275 benefit would have been $457 today. Last month Gov. Ron DeSantis made clear he was opposed to an increase in benefits.]
“Yes, it died — Florida House Republicans did nothing to increase unemployment benefits for Florida’s families,” Democrat Anna Eskamani, a leading proponent of the increase, told the Phoenix via text message.
The benefits bill also would have increased the period for drawing benefits from the existing 12 weeks to 14 weeks. The maximum amount collectable in one year would have grown from from $6,325 to $9,375. [No other state has a benefit window as short as Florida’s. Only two states have benefits lower than Florida’s, but with 26-week windows.]
In the Senate, the bipartisan measure (SB 1906) passed unanimously. But Gov. Ron DeSantis and House Speaker Chris Sprowls both were hostile to any increase. The bill died without ever coming up in the lower chamber, although the GOP majority had rejected attempts to amend the increase into other legislation.
A bill the Legislature has sent to the governor would beef up the mechanics of state’s unemployment compensation system, which collapsed under the massive demand at the height of COVID job losses. That bill requires that the Department of Economic Opportunity find a cloud server host that can be expanded in periods of high demand. But that bill did not address benefits levels.
–Michael Moline, Florida Phoenix, and FlaglerLive