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Proposal to increase Florida unemployment benefits: how much would it be?

Lawmakers want to boost the Sunshine State's jobless support, which has struggled to cope with the economic consequences of the covid-19 pandemic.

Lawmakers want to boost the Sunshine State's jobless support, which has struggled to cope with the economic consequences of the covid-19 pandemic.

A new bill introduced in the Florida legislature calls for a considerable increase to the states’ struggling unemployment benefits system, which has been ravaged by the economic fall out of the covid-19 pandemic.

The Republican-led proposal would see the state’s maximum weekly unemployment benefits increased from $275 to $375. In addition to the $100 weekly increase, the state’s strict work search requirement would be lowered from five job application per week to three.

Will the new Florida unemployment benefits bill be passed?

Senate bill 1906 (Reemployment Assistance) is the culmination of efforts that have been ongoing since January as lawmakers look to address the unemployment crisis facing Florida. Last week the bill was officially tabled and it passed its first committee on Thursday, the first step in a lengthy legislative process.

From here the bill has to pass two more Senate committees, before being subjected to a floor vote in both the Florida Senate and the state’s House of Representatives. It is only after clearing all these hurdles that it can reach Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk to be signed into law.

The current proposal was introduced by Republican Sen. Jason Brodeur, who said it was a “good starting point” for the debate, and offered a chance to improve an unemployment system that was “designed to fail” during such tough economic times.

In response Democrat senators have attempted to add amendments that would open up eligibility to more Floridians, but they were rejected by the Republican-led Senate. One would have seen poorer residents able to qualify for benefits. Another would have prevented pregnant women, people without transportation, people caring for children and those who are sick from being denied access to state unemployment benefits.

Floridians have the harshest unemployment provision in the country

Many states are struggling to provide jobless support during the pandemic, but in Florida that has proved to be particularly difficult with some of the stingiest unemployment benefits in the United States.

While most states provide 26 weeks of unemployment benefits as standard, and some offer more, Floridians are only entitled to 12 weeks of jobless support. Not only that but Florida’s average weekly payment of $236 nearly exactly half what is offered in Massachusetts ($473).

That is one of the lowest weekly averages of any state in the country and with a comparatively high cost of living, it is no surprise that Floridians are struggling to make ends meet. In a recent study into state unemployment benefits, Forbes Advisor ranked Florida as the worst state for jobless support.