Q&A of the Day – Florida’s unemployment benefits explained

Q&A of the Day – Florida’s unemployment benefits explained

Each day I’ll feature a listener question that’s been submitted by one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Twitter: @brianmuddradio

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Today’s entry: Why aren’t unemployment benefits higher in Florida? Expecting to live on a couple hundred bucks a week is a joke!

Bottom Line: Florida’s unemployment benefits have come back into focus on back of the record unemployment filings last week. All told 74,000 Floridians filed for benefits last week – a record for the state. Of course, the entire country dealt with an unprecedented week of claims, as most businesses have been forced to stop normal operations. Hopefully the CARES ACT will preserve jobs in our state now that it’s law, as it heavily incentivizes employers to keep payrolls intact. Regarding Florida’s unemployment benefits...first let’s look at what’s available:

  • Weekly benefits totaling up to $275
  • 13 weeks of benefits

Now let’s look at what’s available in Florida due to the CARES ACT...

  • 26 total weeks of benefits
  • 17 weeks with benefits up to $875 per week
  • 9 weeks with benefits of up to $275

So, the first thing to know is that if you’ve been laid off, and you successfully file for unemployment benefits in Florida, you’ll be eligible for considerably more than a couple of hundred dollars per week for four months if you’d worked full-time hours previously. As for Florida’s system. It’s true Florida has one of the more limited systems in the country. The reason is the preservation of businesses and incentivizing businesses to hire. Standard unemployment benefits are paid for by taxes required to the state and are held in the Florida Reemployment Compensation Trust Fund to be paid out to those eligible. It’s straight-forward economics. The higher the taxes on businesses, the harder it is to be profitable and the fewer employees they can hire. It’s one of the reasons Florida’s economy consistently outperforms the rest of the country and our unemployment rate was/is substantially lower than the rest of the country – even during a period of record low unemployment until the virus’s impact. 

I understand that now isn’t the ideal time for anyone suddenly hurting to talk about philosophy, but the other important point is that these benefits, like almost all government assistance benefits, aren’t meant to “live” on. They’re in place as a safety net to help get your through a time of adversity. Having a shorter leash on benefits helps keep people naturally engaged in looking for work and getting back on track as quickly as possible. If the government made it comfortable to remain unemployed, we’d likely see abuse in the system and a negative longer-term impact to our country and economy.

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