Unemployed Lobby Lawmakers to Stop Changes

By: Whitney Ray Email
By: Whitney Ray Email

Tallahassee, FL - The debate surrounding how to pay Florida’s unemployed is reaching a boiling point. Dozens of angry jobseekers crowded the state capitol Wednesday. Devetria Stratford has been out of work for two years.

“I’m a hard worker. People want to holla about we lazy. I’m not lazy. The last job I held for eight years. I held another job for nine years,” Stratford.

The unemployed traveled from South Florida and Orlando. They voiced their frustration, and carried signs. The group was brought together by legislation that would shorten the number of weeks the state would pay the unemployed by six and make it easier for employers to dispute a claim.

Determined to have their voices heard, the unemployed workers lined the entrance to the House Chamber where lawmakers were preparing to debate the unemployment compensation legislation.

As Representative Carlos Trujillo tried to make his way through the crowd, organizers began questioning his support for the bill.

Trujillo: We are working to give employers the ability to grow businesses, to expand business, to have enough capital to continue to grow. People don’t want to receive unemployment. People want to work. We are trying to allow them to have that opportunity.

Protester: On one hand you’re saying that, but on the other hand you are threatening the jobs.

On average, the changes would provide a 25 dollar per employee tax break for businesses this year and additional breaks in the coming years. The bill’s sponsor says its one step closer to a more business friendly environment.

“A reduction in weeks will encourage new business to come to this state,” said Rep. Doug Holder.

With the House poised to approve the bill Thursday, the protesters will concentrate their efforts on the Senate, which is considering less severe cuts. The legislation would allow the unemployed to challenge a denied claim in an appellate court, but many argue the unemployed don’t have enough money to hire a lawyer.

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