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Florida’s unemployment ‘quarter change’ returns; here’s what it means

Job seekers will have to answer a few questions before claiming federal benefits in 2021.
A help wanted sign is posted at a Designer Eyes store at Brickell City Centre in Miami on Nov. 6.
A help wanted sign is posted at a Designer Eyes store at Brickell City Centre in Miami on Nov. 6. [ LYNNE SLADKY | AP ]
Published Dec. 30, 2020

A quarterly wrinkle of Florida’s unemployment system is about to return — and it could affect millions of dollars in federal benefits.

Starting Friday, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity will once again require residents receiving state benefits to log into its unemployment system, CONNECT, and reaffirm that they’re also eligible for federal benefits related to the coronavirus pandemic. That includes Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which covers gig workers and the self-employed; and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which extends the window in which one can claim benefits.

This process, known as the “quarter change,” happens every three months, and can cause temporary hiccups in unemployment payments if recipients aren’t prepared and don’t fill out a questionnaire about earned income during a specific time window dating back more than a year.

Related: Here's when new $600 stimulus checks, PPP loans could arrive

For job seekers, the newest quarter change is an important one.

This week, President Donald Trump signed a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package that includes new federal unemployment insurance worth $300 per week through March 14. It’s a smaller re-up of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payments, which ended in July, then were briefly revived in August.

States including Florida are waiting for additional guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor on whether recipients will need to reapply for the extended benefits. While Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation payments ran out last weekend, the Department of Labor said Tuesday that those payments will not lapse.

Related: 5 ways the coronavirus stimulus bill affects Florida

Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando tweeted Monday that she’s “pushing DEO to be as fast as possible but right now US Department of Labor needs to implement new rules for the new bill, and then DEO signs an agreement w/them, and then DEO implements. So it will take at least a week if not a little more.”

Related: More PPP loans are coming. Here's how your business can get a second one.

One way or another, the quarter change is still on track for Friday, a Department of Economic Opportunity spokeswoman confirmed, so anyone hoping to extend their federal benefits will need to update their information.

The state has compiled how-to guides for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, as well as videos for both.

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Florida’s next quarter change is set for April 1.


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