Reemployment Assistance Program new name for Florida's unemployment benefits plan

Published June 30, 2012

If you're one of nearly 800,000 Floridians searching for a job, don't think of yourself as unemployed anymore.

Think of yourself as someone moving along the "re-employment" process.

Effective Sunday, Florida becomes the first state in the nation to rebrand its Unemployment Compensation Benefits Program to the Reemployment Assistance Program.

The name change was incorporated in legislation passed in the last session, which also significantly reduced unemployment taxes paid by businesses statewide.

"This transformation to Reemployment Assistance is one of my top priorities for economic development and job creation," Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement Friday. "In addition to more accurately reflecting this program's goal to get Floridians back to work, businesses and employers statewide will also receive more than $500 million in tax relief."

This isn't the first rebranding affecting the jobless. Florida's Agency for Workforce Innovation, which was in charge of doling out unemployment benefits (or rather, re-employment assistance benefits), was previously scrapped and incorporated into a broader state agency dubbed the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

The latest name change does not change access to benefits provided by either Florida or the federal government.

However, the state separately has already reduced the number of weeks of compensation paid out and has added more steps online for applicants to prove they're eligible for payments. The state also had previously eliminated the popular option of filing by phone.

Last month, a national workers' rights group filed a federal complaint over Florida's tightened unemployment compensation system, alleging that the Sunshine State has become the toughest place in the nation for jobless who are seeking benefits.

The National Employment Law Project and Florida Legal Services say that only 15 percent of eligible unemployed Floridians are actually receiving benefits. That ranks Florida last. The national average is 27 percent.

The number of people receiving unemployment assistance in Florida has been in decline since peaking in mid 2009. The dropoff is amplified by the fact a federal extension of benefits for long-term unemployed is no longer available.