New order aims to speed up Florida unemployment benefits

Jobless claims surge amid coronavirus pandemic

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida has lifted a requirement that people qualifying for unemployment benefits must wait a week before their first checks are sent.

With jobless claims surging as businesses have closed or scaled back because of the novel coronavirus, state Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson on Tuesday signed an order that temporarily waives the one-week waiting period before people can start to collect benefits.

Lawson noted in the order that “strict compliance” with the rule “would prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the emergency.”

The waiting period had been among several issues raised by Democrats and labor leaders, who have complained about the unemployment-compensation system.

“It’s great news for out-of-work Floridians and positions us to bring more funding to Florida via CARES Act,” tweeted Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, referring to a new federal stimulus law that adds to unemployment benefits.

Democrats and labor leaders also have requested changes such as an expansion of the number of weeks benefits are available from 12; considering workers’ most-recent quarter of earnings when calculating potential benefits as a way to help seasonal workers and changing eligibility requirements that currently include filling out an application that can take several hours.

Mark Grodek has been trying to apply for unemployment and worries he won’t be able to do so successfully. We already talked to him in an earlier story about the same topic.

“Three weeks from now, I will have a real tough time paying rent next month, and I’m going to be calling people asking to borrow money”

Gov. Ron DeSantis has already waived a requirement related to people searching for work. Meanwhile, he has urged people to be patient as the unemployment-compensation is flooded with applications.

The state received 74,313 applications for unemployment compensation during the week that ended March 21.

The following week, there were 222,054 applications. On Sunday, the state received 21,137 applications. Florida offers some of the lowest unemployment-compensation benefits in the country, up to $275 a week for 12 weeks.

The federal stimulus law is slated to provide an additional $600 a week, for four months, to people who qualify for jobless benefits.

News 6 has dedicated a new way to help residents get through what is expected to be economically difficult times. You can see how you can help make ends meet here.