Make us your home page
Instagram

Florida unemployment proposals would cut benefits

TALLAHASSEE — Unemployed Floridians would work harder to earn fewer state benefits under a pair of proposals on the fast track in the Florida Legislature.

On Thursday, a divided House committee approved a bill from Republican leaders that would:

• Make it easier to fire employees.

• Put more burden on workers to prove they deserve benefits if employers appeal.

• Reduce weekly unemployment checks from the state from 26 weeks to as few as 12.

"This bill … helps ease the burden on businesses so they can start hiring again," said Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota.

The House Economic Development and Tourism subcommittee passed the bill 7-4 along party lines.

PCB EDTS 11-01 has two more committee stops but could be ready for a vote on the House floor when the annual spring lawmaking session starts March 8.

The Senate plan is similar to the House bill but includes a slight increase in the base unemployment tax rate on businesses. SB 728 is scheduled for its first vote later this month.

Unemployment benefits in Florida are paid from business taxes. The state fund, however, was wiped out in August 2009 by the historic unemployment crisis.

Lawmakers attempted to save the fund in 2009 when they increased business taxes to pay for it. But the Legislature undid those changes in its first bill of 2010.

Instead, lawmakers have taken on $2 billion in federal loans plus more than $200 million in interest.

President Barack Obama is pushing to let Florida delay about $500 million in payments for the next two years. But Gov. Rick Scott wants lawmakers to cover the federal debt obligations while cutting unemployment taxes for businesses by $630 million over two years.

Scott's plan would also reduce state benefits to 20 weeks from 26 weeks. His plan, as well as the House and Senate bills, would limit unemployment checks to 12 weeks if the unemployment rate reaches or falls below 5 percent. It's now at 12 percent in Florida.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said he would consider Obama's plan.

"Interest payments cripple families, cripple this state," Haridopolos said. "We need to find a long-term solution."

In the House committee on Thursday, nearly a dozen out-of-work residents pleaded not to reduce their benefits. The maximum benefit is $275 per week, among the lowest in the country.

But the Republican majority sided with business lobbyists who said lower taxes would make it easier to hire new workers.

"The whole system needs to be reformed," said Senate Commerce and Tourism Chairwoman Nancy Detert, R-Venice. "And that is going to be a huge lift."

Michael C. Bender can be reached at mbender@sptimes.com.

Florida unemployment proposals would cut benefits 02/10/11 [Last modified: Thursday, February 10, 2011 9:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trigaux: Tampa Bay household income tops $50,000 but still makes us look poor

    Personal Finance

    The good news is Tampa Bay's median household income finally crawled above $50,000 last year. The bad news is that figure — officially $51,115 by new U.S. Census Bureau data — still puts the Tampa Bay region as the poorest of the nation's 25 largest metro areas.

    Tampa Bay still has the lowest median household income among the 25 most populous metro areas, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
[Times]
  2. Make-A-Wish Foundation aims to help more kids in Tampa Bay

    Health

    The Make-A-Wish Foundation is on the lookout for sick children in the Tampa Bay area who need a once-in-a-lifetime pick-me-up.

    Grace Savage, a 10-year-old girl with a chromosomal disorder made a trek to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium last year, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The foundation intends to beef up its presence in the Tampa Bay area after a reorganization. The region is now the responsibility of the foundation's Southern Florida chapter, one of the most active in the country, with more than 11,000 wishes granted so far. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times ]
  3. Florida hides details in nursing home reports. Federal agencies don't.

    Medicine

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott widened his offensive Thursday against the Broward nursing home he blames for the deaths of 10 residents by setting up a tip line for information, but when it comes to access to the inspection reports of all nursing homes, the governor's administration has heavily censored what the …

    In the foreground is a document detailing the findings of a Feb. 2016 inspection at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills obtained from a federal agency, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Behind it is the state?€™s version of the same document, from the Agency for Health Care Administration, showing how it has been redacted before being released to the public. [Miami Herald]
  4. 'Toxic' times: How repeal of Florida's tax on services reverberates, 30 years later

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Long before Hurricane Irma attacked Florida, the state faced a troubled fiscal future that the storm will only make worse.

    Robertson says the tax debate is now “toxic.”
  5. Fewer Tampa Bay homeowners are underwater on their mortgages

    Real Estate

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages continues to drop. In the second quarter of this year, 10.2 percent of borrowers had negative equity compared to nearly 15 percent in the same period a year ago, CoreLogic reported Thursday. Nationally, 5.4 percent of all mortgaged homes were …

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages  continues to drop. [Times file photo]