Some Florida lawmakers are drafting a bill to fix the state’s unemployment system.
“Ultimately, the unemployment system in Florida has been designed to not work,” said State Representative Anna Eskamani, who is drafting the bill.
“When we’re looking for support in the middle of a global crisis, it’s just not there,” Eskamani said.
Florida has the third-lowest benefit payment and the shortest program duration in the nation of $275 per week, for 12 weeks.
“It’s just something Floridians just can’t survive off on,” Eskamani said. “We have one of the lowest benefits in the country.”
That’s why Eskamani and her colleagues drafted a bill to change that.
“It would increase the benefit amount to $500 per week and increase the number of weeks on a sliding scale to be a standard of 26 weeks,” Eskamani said.
The proposal nearly doubles the benefits that are currently in place.
That may sound unreasonable to some, but it would put Florida around the country’s average.
The draft also includes setting a three-week deadline for claimants to receive their eligibility status.
The draft proposes selecting someone to oversee DEO to make sure it’s delivering benefits in a timely manner as well as expanding accessibility so people can apply other ways than online.
The draft also suggests changing base periods to allow more people to be eligible. This would make space for self-employed workers.
State Senator Annette Taddeo supported the draft right away.
“It’s just a shame the system is a failure,” Taddeo said. “This is an insurance program. This is not a giveaway. This is something that is supposed to be there for emergencies such as this one.”
Both Eskamani and Taddeo said they will be facing the battle of a tight state budget in 2021.
Unless a special session is called, any suggestion will not be considered until March, and if approved, it wouldn’t be implemented until July 1 when the fiscal year begins.
“There is a lot that needs to be fixed and we’ve left a lot of people waiting,” Taddeo said.