TALLAHASSEE — Amid questioning about Florida’s broken unemployment system, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday touted a big figure for the amount in state and federal benefits that have gone out.
“We have $2 billion in claims that have been paid,” he said.
Taken alone, that’s a lot of dough. But many states, which are also grappling with historic numbers of unemployed, have paid out a lot more.
Comparing Florida to other states isn’t simple. DeSantis’ $2 billion figure includes both federal CARES Act benefits ($1.2 billion) and state unemployment benefits ($840 million).
State unemployment benefits vary widely from each state. Florida’s weekly benefit payout top out at a stingy $275 per week, one of the worst in the nation.
If you combine both state and federal benefits, most states appear to have paid out far more in unemployment than Florida. Michigan (with a population less than half Florida’s size) has paid out $5.6 billion. California, for example, has paid out $11.1 billion in state benefits, but just $1.2 billion in federal benefits.
However, it’s probably fair to compare how much in CARES Act benefits Florida has paid out compared to some other states. It’s not a perfect comparison for a variety of reasons — some states started processing those claims earlier than Florida, for example.
But since the bulk of CARES Act money is coming from the flat, $600-per-week checks, it’s a pretty good comparison.
Most states don’t have that data easily available. But here are the ones we could easily find and how much they’ve paid in federal unemployment benefits:
Florida (population 21 million): $1.2 billion
California (pop. 39.5 million): $1.2 billion as of May 14
Texas (pop. 29 million): $3.8 billion
Pennsylvania (pop. 12.8 million): $3.1 billion
Georgia (pop. 10.6 million): $1.1 billion as of May 7 (Florida had paid out just $748 million by May 8)
North Carolina (pop. 10.5 million): $1.4 billion
New Jersey (pop. 8.8 million): $1.5 billion
Nevada (pop. 3 million): $601 million as of May 9
Florida has been the slowest state in the nation to process claims, and many states were faster to process federal claims.
One thing that is likely dragging down Florida’s figures: The state has struggled to backdate people’s claims.
DeSantis said on Friday that “99.99 percent” of Floridians who qualify for unemployment and have submitted their applications properly have been paid. But while many people have started to receive unemployment checks, many say they have not been paid for past weeks of unemployment. Most Floridians are likely eligible for federal benefits starting on March 29.
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