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Florida seeks to boost unemployment benefits by $300 per week

MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA - MAY 22: Joseph Louis joins others in a protest asking the state of Florida to fix its unemployment system on May 22, 2020 in Miami Beach, Florida. Unemployed hospitality and service workers who have not received unemployment checks held the protest demanding Florida Governor Ron DeSantis fix the unemployment system and send out their benefits. Since the closure of all non-essential businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of thousands of hospitality workers across Florida find themselves out of work. Florida’s unemployment system has not worked reliably. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA - MAY 22: Joseph Louis joins others in a protest asking the state of Florida to fix its unemployment system on May 22, 2020 in Miami Beach, Florida. Unemployed hospitality and service workers who have not received unemployment checks held the protest demanding Florida Governor Ron DeSantis fix the unemployment system and send out their benefits. Since the closure of all non-essential businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of thousands of hospitality workers across Florida find themselves out of work. Florida’s unemployment system has not worked reliably. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) (2020 Getty Images)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is applying to participate in a federal unemployment assistance program so people currently receiving at least $100 in benefits can be eligible for another $300 a week.

The Lost Wages Assistance Program was created by an executive order signed by President Donald Trump earlier this month. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is authorized to spend up to $44 billion in disaster relief money for unemployment benefits.

“We actually do have an application, it's being sent today. I spoke to the secretary of labor, I think it will be favorably approved, so then we'll be able to then turn around and offer the enhanced benefit,” DeSantis said at a news conference Wednesday in Orlando. “So that will happen.”

Once approved, benefits will be retroactive to Aug. 1. Benefits are eligible to people who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic.

John Brenner, an unemployed hotel manager, said he was relieved at the state’s decision, adding the extra $300 nearly covers his rent. Florida’s unemployment is capped at $275 a week.

“I can now give my landlord a proper timeline,” he said. “But I do wish our governor would take the situation more seriously. He has to understand the tourism industry isn’t coming back in the near future and for so many of us, that’s our career. We’re a huge part of this state.”

Brenner’s hotel eliminated his position after the virus outbreak decimated the tourism industry. The 38-year-old from Plantation, Florida, has been out of work for five months and has several possibilities, but none of them are hiring yet.

Florida has had massive problems with its online unemployment application program, so much so DeSantis ordered an investigation into the company hired to create it. His office said in a news release that the Department of Economic Opportunity is already preparing its system to make sure benefits are paid out as soon as possible.

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Kennedy reported from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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