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Q&A: Why Florida pays so little in unemployment benefits

About 40 percent of Florida Lottery sales go to education.

Times (2002)

About 40 percent of Florida Lottery sales go to education.

Explaining low benefits rate

Florida's unemployment compensation rate of $275 a week is one of the lowest in the country. Why?

Short answer is the money the state pays out in unemployment is dictated by the money it collects from businesses in taxes for unemployment.

Since state legislatures determine how much to tax businesses, the differences between states can be traced to differences in the tax rates businesses pay.

You correctly point out that Florida's rate is one of the lowest in the country — 47th. Its maximum $275 a week benefit betters only Alabama ($235), Arizona ($240) and Alaska ($248). Highest payouts are in Massachusetts ($600), New Jersey ($560), Pennsylvania ($539), Minnesota ($538) and Hawaii ($523).

Most states, including Florida, will pay unemployment benefits a maximum of 26 weeks.

Lottery sales and education

What portion of the Florida Lottery sales goes to education? Who is the auditor?

According to the Florida Lottery, about 50 percent of the money taken in goes into payouts for winners. About 40 percent goes to education, and the remaining 10 percent is spent on administrative expenses. Also, 80 percent of the unclaimed winnings goes to education.

In the 2007-08 fiscal year, $1.28-billion went to the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, and the Florida Legislature and Department of Education determine disbursements.

The Lottery keeps records of payouts to counties online at

For example, Hillsborough County has received $1,478,179,119 in the 20 years since the Lottery started. Of that total, about 20 percent has gone to school construction, about 10 percent to Bright Futures college scholarship and the rest to schools. Of the amount that has gone to schools, about 47 percent has gone to grades K-12, 36 percent to universities, about 10 percent to community colleges and about 7 percent to preschools.

Auditing of the drawings is handled by the certified public accounting firm of Thomas Howell Ferguson of Tallahassee.

Penalties for throwing shoes

If the Iraq shoe-throwing incident had occurred in the United States, what would the reporter have been charged with and what would the penalty be?

The online magazine Slate recently posed that question to several legal experts. The U.S. Code provides special protection to foreign officials. A stateside shoe perp could be fined or jailed for up to three years or both for assault on a foreign official, and fined, imprisoned for up to 10 years or both for assault on the president or vice president. If your flying shoes were judged to be merely a threat, then you would only be looking at a fine, up to five years in prison or both.

Q&A: Why Florida pays so little in unemployment benefits 01/25/09 [Last modified: Sunday, January 25, 2009 3:30am]
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