Florida’s federal unemployment benefits end Labor Day

The benefits are expiring nationwide on Labor Day. The state’s jobless agency says the state is “ready.”
A small group of demonstrators gathers at Lake Eola Park to protest the Florida unemployment benefits system in June 2020 in Orlando.
A small group of demonstrators gathers at Lake Eola Park to protest the Florida unemployment benefits system in June 2020 in Orlando. [ JOHN RAOUX | AP ]
Published Sept. 1, 2021|Updated Sept. 2, 2021

TALLAHASSEE — The federal unemployment benefits that have helped millions of Floridians stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic run out Monday.

The state’s jobless agency said Wednesday that two key federal programs end Sept. 6: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which paid up to $275 per week for gig workers and others who aren’t eligible for state assistance, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which extended the number of weeks someone would be eligible to receive state benefits.

The programs are set to expire on Labor Day for millions of Americans across the country. President Joe Biden suggested that states use unspent federal rescue plan money to extend the programs, but states don’t appear to be taking him up on the offer. Officials at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity say it can’t extend the programs, pointing to conflicting guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Collectively, the two programs have injected more than $5.5 billion into Florida’s economy since rolling out last year. They were considered critical lifelines for Floridians after the pandemic cast millions out of work. When the pandemic hit, Florida’s benefits — at a maximum of $275 per week for 12 weeks — were among the five lowest in the country.

Last week, 201,412 Floridians received benefits under the programs, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity.

The department said Wednesday the state was ready to end the federal benefit programs “thanks to the success of Florida’s Return to Work Initiative.”

The initiative included cutting off Floridians from receiving an extra $300 per week in federal unemployment benefits in June, an effort, the state said, to get people to return to work.

About half of states ended those payments early, but studies show it had little effect on the job growth.

Since the state’s “Return to Work Initiative” was announced in May, the state has more job listings and the unemployment rate has risen from 4.7 percent to 5.1 percent, according to the department’s news releases.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has pushed for life to return to normal even if it means Floridians losing out on billions of dollars in direct payments from the federal government. In addition to ending the $300 unemployment benefits in June, he hasn’t applied for up to $820 million in federal food aid for children in low-income families, and his decision to end Florida’s state of emergency early cost Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients to lose about $280 million in additional federal benefits each month.