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Floridians start to receive extended unemployment benefit payments

Payments began Thursday for Floridians who have been approved for extended unemployment insurance benefits, according to the state agency overseeing payouts.

The Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation said about 250,000 Floridians will be eligible for the additional benefits, which are funded through the $418 million the state received in federal stimulus money.

The program targets those who have exhausted their benefits as the recession has stretched into the longest economic downturn since World War II.

Payments will be retroactive as far back as Feb. 22. Depending on circumstances, some may be eligible for retroactive payments as high as $5,100, with additional payments of as much as $300 a week for up to 20 weeks.

The best way for longtime unemployed to apply, the AWI said, is to go to floridajobs.org or to complete and return an application received in the mail.

For questions about extended benefits that cannot be handled online, applicants should call toll-free 1-888-896-0091.

Since announcing the program, the AWI said it has received more than 73,000 applications. However, it has also parried complaints from those who were told they didn't qualify when applying online and others who have struggled to reach the agency by phone to discuss their cases.

As state unemployment has doubled to eclipse 10 percent, the AWI has been swamped with calls. Frustrated callers have struggled to get past a "call back later" recorded message.

Last month, the state opened an overflow call center in Orlando that it hopes eventually will handle up to 10,000 calls a day.

Data out July 17

Florida's June unemployment and details on how various industries are faring will be released July 17. Florida's unemployment rate in May had catapulted to 10.2 percent, the highest since 1975, with nearly 943,000 Floridians out of work. In the Tampa Bay area, May unemployment stood at 10.6 percent, up from 5.9 percent a year earlier. Some economists predict a continued rise this summer, in part reflecting recent graduates unable to find work.

Floridians start to receive extended unemployment benefit payments 07/02/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 2, 2009 9:15pm]
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