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Tampa Bay and Sarasota's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Tampa Bay and Sarasota, FL | WTSP.com

Florida law may require DEO to extend unemployment benefits

According to Florida Statute 443.1115, for every half percent the unemployment rate exceeds 5%, the state needs to provide an additional week of benefits.
Credit: WTLV

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — UPDATE: The Department of Economic Opportunity announced if the third quarter unemployment rate exceeds 5%, the extended benefit weeks would go into affect January 2021. DEO said each year, the number of weeks for state Reemployment Assistance is calculated based on the average unemployment rate for the most recent third calendar year quarter. DEO said six weeks of extended benefits will be available by December, but CONNECT needs to build out the system to implement them. 

According to Florida Statute 443.1115, for every half percent the unemployment rate exceeds 5%, the state needs to provide an additional week of benefits.

The third quarter of the calendar year covers June through September.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Florida’s unemployment rate in June was 10.3% and 11.3% in July. 

Friday, the Department of Economic Opportunity announced August's unemployment rate was 7.4%.

September’s official unemployment rate has yet to be released, but it is assumed it will create an average that is over 5%.

“The Florida unemployment system is built on a sliding scale,” Eskamani said. “So this is that sliding scale going into effect. If we didn’t have these federal programs, this would have essentially reopened unemployment for folks that had nothing for months.”

More than 75% of unemployed Floridians are using federal programs.

“There’s still a lot for questions about how DEO would implement this, as there hasn’t been a lot of conversations from DEO,” Eskamani said.

According to a graphic made by DEO, this is the order claimants should be utilizing to get benefits.

Credit: DEO

Those who did start with state benefits should transfer from programs in this order—Regular state benefits, PEUC, and then extended benefits if they are in effect, according to DEO's graphic.

It is unclear how many weeks could be added for the first quarter of 2021. DEO states six will be added in December. Florida provides 12 weeks in unemployment benefits, and is capped at a total of 23 weeks with extended benefits. 

“I’m concerned about the state’s ability to make this transition, but I also want to make sure every Floridian gets the weeks that are rightfully theirs,” Eskamani said.