[UPDATE] Florida's Unemployed Rally at the Capitol

By: Lanetra Bennett; David Royse, The News Serive of Florida Email
By: Lanetra Bennett; David Royse, The News Serive of Florida Email

[UPDATE] 3-10 10am -- David Royse, The News Serive of Florida --

The House is set to vote Thursday on a dramatic reduction in the amount of benefits the state would provide to the unemployed, part of an effort to help businesses reduce how much they pay into the system and maybe put some of those people back to work.

The latest state figures on how many Floridians remain out of a job will also be released Thursday, but economists have said there’s not a lot of hope that the January rate that state officials will release Thursday morning will be a lot lower than the 12 percent unemployment that’s nagged the state’s workforce for months.

The bill (HB 7005) the House is set to vote on would keep the maximum benefit amount for the unemployed at $275 a week, but would reduce the amount of time people could collect those benefits.

Right now, the maximum time limit is 26 weeks, which would drop to 20 weeks under the House plan, and could get even shorter if the economy improves. If unemployment were to drop below 5 percent, the maximum would be 12 weeks under the proposal.

The measure would also make it easier for the state to disqualify certain workers for the circumstances under which they lost their previous job.

The bill, which has wide support in the Republican-controlled House, is aimed at lowering the amount of money employers must pay into the unemployment fund, which is currently broke. The state has been borrowing from the federal government to pay benefits.

“The bill is designed to balance the needs of employers with the needs of the unemployed, and get the unemployment compensation trust fund on the road to solvency,” said its sponsor, Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota.

Republicans brought the measure to the House floor on Wednesday, and knocked down several Democratic attempts to weaken it. Beaten back were amendments to keep the length of benefits the same, and another to put into place what’s called the alternative base. That’s an effort to count more recent previous work when calculating eligibility for benefits, which advocates for the unemployed say is easy with modern technology.

But doing so would cost more – the exact opposite of the intent of the bill, Holder said.

The House has set out a time limit for debate on the contentious measure, with each side being allotted 30 minutes on Thursday. The bill would still need Senate approval. A Senate measure attempting to tackle the unemployment issue seeks to change certain benefit eligibility rules, but doesn’t shorten the length of time during which benefits can be awarded. The measures don’t affect additional federal jobless benefits that kick in after state compensation is exhausted.

The discussion of the bill on the House floor Wednesday came as unemployed workers and their supporters rallied outside the Capitol.

One of the rally speakers, Badili Jones of Florida New Majority, said the bill attacks unemployed workers.

“We are here to reclaim the dignity of working people who have been let go through no fault of their own,” he said. “In a situation where over a million people in Florida are unemployed, where people are being foreclosed, where people are being evicted, where people are not able to feed their children…they are saying that you need to tighten your belt even tighter.”


March 9, 2011 -- Lanetra Bennett --More than 200 unemployed and concerned Floridians from across the state gathered in the back of the state capitol Wednesday morning.

Their rally was in opposition to House Bill 7005, which they say is an attack on unemployed workers and public workers.

The group says "NO" to job cuts and want legislators to get their message loud and clear.

Badili Jones, Florida Majority Political Officer, said, "A lot of them are millionaires themselves and can't really speak to how people today in 2011 are trying to manage their lives and put food on their table and support their children and save enough money for their children's future."

The protesters say the one million unemployed people in Florida are already having a hard time finding jobs without having to deal with more job and benefits cuts.

At the end of the rally, the protestors marched inside of the capitol and held a soup kitchen, to sort of symbolize how many of the families who are unemployed have to survive.

They say they just want lawmakers to consider legislation that will help people find jobs with liveable wages; and they say the unemployment system needs to be modernized.

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  • by NeedaJob Location: TampaBay on Mar 10, 2011 at 02:57 PM
    WHERE are the 700,000 jobs in 7 years that Scott was promising us? ALL I see are more jobs being cut; not ONE new job created...Here's what's happening now: you're unemployed; your job that was eliminated last year had paid, say, around $25/hour WITH benefits. More competition for the few jobs in your field that have been created, so greedy Florida CORPORATIONS are CURRENTLY offering a handful of jobs in your field at $15-$20 per hour, short-term contract, with NO benefits. That bill gets passed, guess what?!?! What's going to stop those CORPORATIONS from offering MINIMUM WAGE for ANY and ALL jobs in the state? They don't have to offer a higher wage, because if you turn that job down, they'll report you to AWI! And guess what?!?! AWI will then deny your further benefits, thanks to that asinine bill!!! Oh, wait! YOU don't care because you already have a job! GUESS WHAT! Here’s what’s going to happen: those same greedy corporations will then be able to turn around and tell you...we want
  • by Moishe Location: Tallahassee on Mar 10, 2011 at 02:37 PM
    Don't give up. I hope you really do not believe that President Obama is going to help. At least not help you find a job. He might let Florida borrow more money for UC fund. Just that much more in debt.
  • by frank Location: fl on Mar 10, 2011 at 12:31 PM
    200 people what a large protest for tallahassee people from across the state.this showed little support from the people.
  • by Tough Love Location: Tallahassee on Mar 10, 2011 at 12:15 PM
    Anyone that collects unemployment (including me)should be required to pay back every dime.
  • by HMA on Mar 10, 2011 at 11:11 AM
    Working: Very true. I personally know an employed CPA with 2 kids who has legally stroked the numbers so they get free meals at school and approx. $280 per month Food Stamps/EBT. The guy makes around $80,000.
  • by Working Location: Tallahassee on Mar 10, 2011 at 09:45 AM
    Was there a job fair at the rally? How do you look for a job while at the rally? Greg is spot on, it was required to actually look for a job in the 70's if you were unemployed. Now, you just click a button and they believe you. Unemployment and Food Stamps are so poorly run that probably 50% of Food Stamp recipients are falsifying their income. It would shock the average person to know what percentage of people are paying for groceries with food stamps. I would wager to say that 40 % of all of Walmart's grocery sales are Food Stamps.
  • by dokeyokie Location: Tallahassee on Mar 10, 2011 at 09:12 AM
    @Nascar Dad. How is that a bad thing? You don't know how long they've been unemployed or how that bill is being paid. Some may have come from great distance to protest and may have need of a way to communicate to love ones. Comments like yours only shows you have a snarky attitude. Nothing else. smh
  • by Greg Location: Tallahassee on Mar 10, 2011 at 08:34 AM
    Extended unemployment benefits, in many cases, subsidizes sorriness. If the recipient really wants to work, limiting benefits may be an added incentive.
  • by Nascar Dad Location: Tallahassee on Mar 10, 2011 at 07:32 AM
    I was in the Senate committee meeting yesterday when the leader of the unemployed protesters reminded them to put their cell phones on vibrate. Priceless.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 10, 2011 at 06:50 AM
    Don't Give Up, How do you know I haven't been there. These guys have enough money to travel to Tallahassee and protest. They also have enough time to take off from looking for a job to come to Tallahassee to protest. These guys do not need a job, they need a hobby. I have no respect for someone who, tells me how hard it is to afford food, and then travels. I haven't left Tallahassee in over a year because I can't afford it, and I work and make good money.
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