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Unemployment boost up in the air

Published: Apr. 21, 2021 at 4:14 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) - The Florida House has approved legislation that would revamp and improve the state’s unemployment system, but the two chambers are still far apart on increasing benefits for the unemployed.

The issue will be hotly debated in the days ahead.

The House’s unemployment reform bill focuses only on improving the efficiency and capacity of the failed state’s unemployment system.

“So right, wrong or indifferent, the amount and the duration of benefits is not what this very good infrastructure bill is about. This bill fixes a broken system,” said House sponsor Representative Chip LaMarca.

Democrats had hoped it would go further.

“Our benefits are too low. You can’t get them for long enough,” said Representative Omari Hardy.

Florida’s unemployment benefits rank among the lowest in the nation, with only three state’s offering a smaller maximum weekly payment.

Across the Capitol, the Senate is pushing a proposal to increase max weekly benefits from $275 to $375.

They also want to add two additional weeks of payments for recipients.

“Well the last time we addressed this issue was probably 20 years ago and since then we’ve seen the cost of homes and the cost of living and the cost of really everything rise,” said Representative Jason Brodeur.

Negotiations between the two chambers are still ongoing, but the House sponsor told us his legislation and increasing benefits are two separate issues.

“I think there’s a fair amount of folks I can speak for, a fair amount of Republicans that have talked about it and if it comes over here I’m sure we’ll have that conversation. This just was not the vehicle for it,” said LaMarca.

The Senate sponsor is hopeful a deal can be worked out, even if it doesn’t go as far as he would like.

“That’s either the amount of money you get or the length of time that you get it and there’s some real discussion going on about what those calculations look like, how you do them and what is fair,” said Brodeur.

Even if the chambers come to an agreement on benefits, the governor has said he doesn’t support the idea and would rather focus on getting Floridians back to work.

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