Unemployed Floridians to Face New Rules for Social Benefits

Unemployed Floridians are going to notice several changes to their benefits under a bill passed by the House Finance and Tax committee on Feb. 17.

Recipients will no longer get 26 weeks of payouts while looking for a job and newly out-of-work people will have a harder time qualifying for the benefits, according to HB 7005.

The changes are part of Gov. Rick Scott’s plan to cut state spending and reduce the $2 billion deficit the state has borrowed from the federal government to pay the unemployed.

The slated changes are shortening the total weeks of compensation from 26 to 20 and capping of the amount for weekly payouts at $275, according to the bill.

“I know I couldn’t live on $275 a week. And I couldn’t imagine not having any income. That six weeks can be a matter of life and death for people,” said Rep. Waldman of Coconut Creek, in a legislative committee hearing.

The changes are expected to save business $20 per employee.

In addition, Florida’s future unemployed will have a harder time securing unemployment benefits.

Under the new plan employers will be able to review and contest all unemployment claims that are submitted. And now employees that are terminated for “misconduct” will not be able to submit a claim.

In section 6 of the Florida Unemployment Compensation Act, misconduct is categorized as “Conduct evincing such willful disregard of an employer’s interests as is found in deliberate violation or disregard of standards of behavior which the employer has a right to expect of his or her employee; or Carelessness or negligence of such a degree or recurrence as to manifest culpability, wrongful intent, or evil design or to show an intentional and substantial disregard of the employer’s interests or of the employee’s duties and obligations to his or her employer.”

For individuals that do meet all of the new requirements to receive unemployment they will not be able to only seek jobs with similar wages as their previous place of work.

After 12 weeks without work, the new bill would require unemployed persons to take a job that offers at least 80 percent of their pervious salary.

Aside from these changes, state representatives are still proposing ways to overhaul the unemployment system.

In HB 509 Rep. Kathleen Passidomo is proposing that all unemployed individuals perform four hours of community service a week in order to receive their benefit checks.

“You never know. It could help you get a job. You’re not going to get contacts staying home,” said Passidomo.

“This is a little outrageous. The four hours spent doing community service can be spent looking for a job,” said Jessica Flynn, a fourth year business administration student from Minneapolis.

HB 7005 and HB 509 are now headed to the Senate. It is unclear whether either bill will pass.