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Florida extends unemployment benefits for about 250,000 jobless

If you've been both out of work and out of unemployment benefits for a while, you may be eligible for a $5,000 boost.

It's part of a new state program to dole out extended unemployment insurance benefits to about 250,000 long-term jobless Floridians.

Payments will begin in early July and will be made retroactive to Feb. 22 for those who are eligible. The retroactive payments could be as high as $5,100 for some claimants, with additional payments of as much as $300 a week for up to a total of 20 weeks.

The extended benefits were triggered by a bill signed by Gov. Charlie Crist late Monday that frees up $418 million for Florida tied to the federal stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. During their session, Florida legislators rejected another $444 million in federal stimulus money, saying that extra layer of unemployment aid would have hurt businesses and created new entitlements.

"In conjunction with this law taking effect, we have launched an online application for Extended Benefits at www.floridajobs.org to begin processing these critical payments to eligible Floridians as quickly as possible," Cynthia Lorenzo, the interim director of the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, said in a statement Tuesday.

In April, Florida posted a slight dip in its unemployment rate to 9.6 percent, but it continues to be worse than the national average. And even if the pace of layoffs has slowed, the long-term jobless have struggled to get back into the work force. Nationally, the number of those on extended benefits is at a record high.

"By allowing for individuals looking for work to continue collecting unemployment benefits, it assures their families are taken care of," said state Sen. Rudy Garcia, R-Hialeah, a sponsor of the bill.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at jharrington@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8242.

FAST FACTS

How to apply

The most efficient way to apply is online at www.floridajobs.org, but for those who do not have Internet access, the Agency for Workforce Innovation will mail forms. Details are available at the Web site by clicking on "file an unemployment claim" and looking at topics of interest.

Florida extends unemployment benefits for about 250,000 jobless 06/02/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 3, 2009 2:43pm]
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