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Union workers petition governor to change unemployment benefits

Disney workers, stage crews, and restaurant workers are just some of the Floridians who have signed a petition to the governor.
Unemployment, Thinkstock

TAMPA, Fla. — New unemployment numbers are out. Things had looked to be going down, but there was an increase this past week in the number of our family members, our friends, our neighbors needing help. 

In Florida, there were 47,045 more people in need of unemployment insurance for the first time than the week prior. 

According to the Department of Labor, there were 221,905 claims.            

Across the country, there was a slight drop. 2.9 million Americans turned in an unemployment application. 

In the last two months, 36 million have been out of work. There has been a decline though over the last six weeks, which points to fewer companies reducing their payrolls.

Adding to the frustration of being out of work are the problems with the Department of Economic Opportunity's Connect system. Union workers with the Florida AFL-CIO say the governor needs to act now and use executive power to make it more functional. They're sending him a petition with more than 11,000 signatures. 

Here’s a look at the petition and stories from some of the union workers who signed it. 

These are the changes they want to see:

  • Waive work-search, availability, work registration, and the one-week waiting period requirements.
  • Increase the weekly benefit cap and expand the maximum number of weeks for eligibility to 26 weeks as a base, before additional provisions from the Federal Government.
  • Institute the Alternative Base period, allowing workers to count their last quarter of work to meet eligibility requirements.
  • Increase staff resources for facilitating online, telephone, and in-person applications submitted at CareerSource centers and for processing claims.
  • Issue guidance clarifying that workers who cannot work due to layoffs or have been asked to take unpaid leave as a result of COVID-19 should be eligible to receive unemployment benefits.
  • Issue guidance clarifying that voluntary separations due to quarantine, unsafe working conditions and other necessary actions related to COVID-19 do not disqualify a worker from receiving unemployment benefits.
  • Upon an employer appeal, shift the burden of proof from the employee to the employer.

Senior Policy Analyst Michele Evermore, from the National Employment law Project, says the system was set up to deny benefits. 

Thomas Spellman from Plant City says he's been getting the run around since March. His wife is expecting a baby, and he has yet to receive any unemployment benefits.

According to the DEO’s claim workflow dashboard, the state has received 1,896,878 claims since the pandemic started. So far, 1,148,656 have been processed. 

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