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Editorial: Good news, bad news for Florida workers

 
Published Jan. 23, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott released the state's jobs report on Friday, boasting of an unemployment rate that dropped to 5.6 percent in December. But that figure masks an embarrassing lack of commitment to the unemployed. Earlier this month, Florida cut its maximum unemployment benefits by two weeks, making the state one of the worst in the nation for providing long-term aid to job seekers. Floridians deserve better.

At 5.6 percent, Florida's unemployment rate is at its lowest level since April 2008. But the state also recently trimmed its maximum unemployment benefit from 16 weeks to 14 weeks. Florida also only offers a maximum weekly payout of $275 to assist the unemployed.

Labor experts say it takes an average of 33 weeks to find a job. Most states aid the unemployed for up to 26 weeks and pay an average of $314 a week. Yet in Florida, state officials are backing away from workers when they most need help. Florida's unemployment benefit window is too short, and the state offers the jobless too little money. Taken together, the benefits show that Tallahassee is out of touch with the present-day realities of the labor market and the type of support job-seekers need to get back on their feet. A lower unemployment rate is reason to celebrate, but Floridians still looking for jobs should not be treated so harshly.