Thursday, November 23, 2017
Business

More bad news for jobless Floridians: Benefits will run out sooner

RECOMMENDED READING


TALLAHASSEE — The state's 836,000 unemployed workers are in for more bad news: Their unemployment benefits are going to start running out sooner.

State officials said this week that 20 weeks of federal extended unemployment benefits are to start disappearing next month. That's on top of three weeks of state unemployment benefits that evaporated in January for newly unemployed workers.

Bottom line: The meager check for the state's unemployed — $275 a week — is going to have to stretch further.

The change is more the result of policy decisions in Washington and Tallahassee than a reflection of the state's improved economic scenario.

"It's not fair to characterize it as an indicator of an improved economy," said Maurice Emsellem, policy co-director of the National Employment Law Project. "It's just an indicator that the economy hasn't gotten worse."

About 30,000 people are currently drawing extended federal benefits. How long someone can receive unemployment benefits depends on a person's individual circumstances — mainly when they first started receiving their benefits. The state and federal government had been paying benefits for a maximum of 99 weeks. That number will be smaller going forward, though how small depends on the state's unemployment rate and whether Congress acts to extend another program set to expire in December.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity estimates 14,000 Floridians may apply for extended benefits through May 12, the last week they can be paid regardless of any benefits remaining on the claim. Some may be eligible for a 10-week extension through June.

The department will notify recipients of the phase-out by mail.

Florida is one of eight states losing the additional benefits, which are expected to be phased out nationwide by fall.

To continue offering extended benefits, Florida's unemployment rate would have needed to exceed 10 percent based on a formula devised by Congress called the three-year "look-back." Officials knew that was unlikely to happen.

The number of people receiving unemployment assistance in Florida has been in decline since peaking in mid 2009. Recipients of federal and state unemployment compensation dropped from 561,736 on Jan. 31, 2011, to 345,052 on March 31, 2012.

Economists and Gov. Rick Scott credit a brightened economic outlook.

But advocates for the unemployed say the program's phase-out is another blow for people out of work.

In 2011, the Republican-led Legislature passed several measures to restrict access to unemployment compensation, including moving the application process online, requiring an online workplace skills review and making recipients prove they made contact with at least five prospective employers each week, among other business-friendly moves.

Florida became the first state to implement a sliding scale for the maximum number of weeks state compensation is offered, ranging from 12 to 23 weeks depending on the unemployment rate. The maximum used to be 26 weeks, standard for most states, before kicking into federal extensions.

"A lot of damage was done to the (unemployment compensation) safety net by the Florida Legislature in the name of saving money for employers and the state," said Valory Greenfield, staff attorney for Florida Legal Services.

Her nonprofit law firm represents the Miami Workers Center, which asked the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate Florida's system after the unemployment compensation changes were implemented. The center alleges that the changes discriminate against people who speak limited English or have disabilities.

A Labor Department spokesman said the investigation is ongoing.

Katie Sanders can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Across country, small retailers aim for emotional ties big chains may lack

Across country, small retailers aim for emotional ties big chains may lack

Associated PressSome smaller retailers will tug at shoppers’ heartstrings during the holidays, trying to create an emotional experience or connection that a big national chain might not provide.Store owners are going well beyond the usual holiday dec...
Published: 11/22/17
Six years and counting: Allegiant Air reaches agreement with flight attendants

Six years and counting: Allegiant Air reaches agreement with flight attendants

ST. PETERSBURG — After six years of negotiations, Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air and its flight attendants union reached a tentative contract to improve worker pay and benefits and solidify airline policies."We feel like it’s an agreement that is cert...
Published: 11/22/17
Workers at luxury St. Pete condo tower say they are owed thousands

Workers at luxury St. Pete condo tower say they are owed thousands

ST. PETERSBURG — Nearly three dozen workers at ONE St. Petersburg, a luxury condo tower under construction in the heart of downtown, haven’t been paid in weeks and are owed thousands of dollars.With the holidays nearing, some of the men say they are ...
Published: 11/22/17
Some cities faced with all-or-nothing medical marijuana rules are playing it safe

Some cities faced with all-or-nothing medical marijuana rules are playing it safe

When it comes to weighing the options for regulating medical marijuana through the law passed this year, Dunedin city commissioners declared local governments face a "conundrum" and "a false dilemma."They said they would welcome a dispensary in the c...
Published: 11/22/17
More guns being detected at Tampa Bay area airports — and everywhere else

More guns being detected at Tampa Bay area airports — and everywhere else

TAMPA — Here’s some travel math for this traditionally heavy day for long trips: More people carrying guns plus more people flying equals more guns going to the airport.The numbers bear this out. The federal Transportation Security Administration has...
Published: 11/22/17
A year after impasse, Pasco school contract talks run more smoothly

A year after impasse, Pasco school contract talks run more smoothly

LAND O’LAKES — Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco sat together several times in the weeks leading to Thanksgiving break, trading contract proposals amid (mostly) amicable conversation.They c...
Published: 11/22/17

Florida Supreme Court suspends two Hillsborough lawyers

Times Staff WriterTwo Hillsborough County lawyers have been suspended from practice because of professional misconduct.The Florida Supreme Court ordered a 91-day suspension for Richard Luther Bradford of Brandon after he was found in contempt for fai...
Published: 11/22/17
Get all the Black Friday sales circulars today. Here’s how

Get all the Black Friday sales circulars today. Here’s how

The Tampa Bay Times Thanksgiving Early Bird edition, with all of the Black Friday ads and sales circulars, is available today.That’s right. You don’t have to wait until Thursday to check out the savings. Weighing nearly five pounds, the Early Bird Ed...
Published: 11/22/17
U.S. business leaders say Cuba is still open, at least to them, despite Trump’s new rules

U.S. business leaders say Cuba is still open, at least to them, despite Trump’s new rules

WASHINGTON — When the Trump administration announced new Cuba regulations, it sparked a new round of hand-wringing in Washington over a return to a posture not seen since the Cold War. But now, the American business community is quietly spreading the...
Published: 11/22/17
Here’s when stores will open on Thanksgiving and Black Friday

Here’s when stores will open on Thanksgiving and Black Friday

Although the crowds might still be unruly and the lines long, Black Friday as "The Day" is slowly waning. Steve Kirn, a University of Florida professor and executive director for the David F. Miller Center for Retailing Education & Research, said the...
Published: 11/21/17
Updated: 11/22/17