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Unemployment benefits in Florida: where and how to check your status and claim payments

The economic fall-out of covid-19 has left millions of Floridians needing financial relief, but how do you know if you are eligible for state support?

The economic fall-out of covid-19 has left millions of Floridians needing financial relief, but how do you know if you are eligible for state support?
Marco BelloREUTERS

Residents of Florida have repeatedly complained of their state’s outdated and ineffective unemployment benefits system that has seen millions go without financial support during the pandemic. A report published by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity found that 4,006,847 unemployment claims had been processed since 15 March. Yet, as of Sunday 11 October, only 2,036,735 of those applicants had been paid.

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis oversaw a state-wide reopening in mid-August but only around half of the 1,178,100 jobs lost between February and April have been regained. Most worryingly, new unemployment claims in Florida rose in early October for the first time since the state reopened in August with another 40,200 Floridians filing for unemployment benefits for the week ending 3 October.

To cope with the rise the state has made some changes to streamline the process and, for now, here’s everything you need to know about claiming unemployment benefits in Florida…

How do I know if I’m eligible for Florida unemployment benefits?

There are a number of criteria that you must meet to be eligible to claim unemployment benefits, which can include partial income replacement benefits and job assistance resources. Those are:

  • You must have lost your job through no fault of your own (such as malicious misconduct or having left voluntarily), but loss of job due to poor performance does not disqualify you.
  • You can be either totally or partially unemployed (working reduced hours or a part-time worker who is unable to find additional work).
  • To qualify you must have earned at least $3,400 gross during the ‘base period’ – the first four complete quarters beginning 18 months prior to the claim.
  • Claimants must be able to work, available to work and actively seeking work. If relevant, that may include finding childcare.

To find out if you’re eligible or not, you can also contact your local CareerSource Florida centre.

Florida broadens unemployment programme

During the pandemic unprecedented numbers of Florida residents suffered lay-offs, work reductions and furlough which overwhelmed the state’s unemployment system. To help people access economic relief as quickly as possible, a number of changes have been made:

  • The one-week delay on payments, the work search requirement and work registration requirement have all been scrapped.
  • Unemployment benefits are now available to self-employed workers, contractors and those working in the gig economy.
  • Paper applications have been made available for residents without internet access.

How and where do I apply for unemployment benefits in Florida?

For those who are eligible the best way to claim financial relief is through the state’s CONNECT web portal, which allows you to submit and then check for updates on your claim. Claimants will need to provide:

  • Social Security number
  • A driver's license or state ID number
  • Information on your employment over the past 18 months, including details of previous employment, gross earnings and reasons for leaving the role.

The application process should take less than an hour but many have reported issues with the website that may cause delays. Anyone who requires assistance when filing their claim can call the Florida Reemployment Assistance Hotline on 1-800-204-2418

New unemployment measures tabled by Democrats

Last week the Democrats proposed a complete overhaul of Florida’s struggling unemployment system that included nearly doubling weekly benefits. Currently the maximum weekly benefits are capped at $275, but that could be raised to $500 to help support the millions of residents who have filed for state unemployment benefits after losing their job due to the pandemic.

The bill proposed by the Democrats seems unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Legislature but there is an appetite for change in the Sunshine State and elements of the draft bill could find their way into law. Florida is a notoriously crucial swing state so there could be efforts made in the run-up to the election on 3 November to fix the overwhelmed system and win over some undecided voters.


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