Senate Democrats demand retroactive eligibility for unemployment claims
The mass of unemployment claims crashed the state's portal last year.

Push to backdate benefits for fired workers.

Recent weeks have shown a flatlined unemployment insurance system, in which people struggle often for days, even weeks, to file claims.

Florida law currently stipulates that residents are eligible from the date of application. However, given the unprecedented burdens on the system, Senate Democrats are appealing to the Governor to change what they call an “impossible restriction.”

On Monday, the Democratic caucus wrote Gov. Ron DeSantis, pushing for retroactive eligibility to the date that a given worker’s job was terminated.

“Recognizing that the application system … was not only out of service for much of the start of this pandemic, but continues to undergo repair, we ask for immediate action to help expedite Floridians’ access to the unemployment benefits they have earned,” read the caucus letter.

The ask: retroactivity to Mar. 1. And the Democrats would like that to apply to independent contractors, the class of workers that receives 1099s rather than W-2s.

All seventeen members of the caucus signed off on the letter.

DeSantis held a roundtable event Monday, in which he defended his administration’s “all hands on deck” response to the systemic problems.

“It’s not like they were just sitting on their hands not doing anything,” he told reporters.

DEO Executive Director Ken Lawson, whose resignation has been requested by one Senate Democrat already, was on hand at the event also.

Lawson’s department failed to fix problems with the site, a product of the administration of DeSantis’ predecessor, Rick Scott, who had appointed Lawson president and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA, and as Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation before that.

Lawson’s rhetorical concern during the portion of the event aired on the Florida Channel was with scoring federal money: an additional $600 a week to augment the state’s lean benefit package, which makes out at $275 per week for 12 weeks.

“All states are waiting for the feds, but we’re pushing harder to get the money quicker,” Lawson said.

DeSantis has sidestepped the press in recent days, holding just one availability in the last four.

He cut Monday’s event short for a call with Vice President Mike Pence, who may or may not have thoughts on how Florida can fix its unemployment insurance system.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski

One comment

  • Jimmy

    April 6, 2020 at 7:44 pm

    Many other states have approved to backdate unemployment claims to the last day of employment. Its only fair to the thousands of Floridians who can not get through to apply or reset pins. At $275, Florida has one of the lowest payouts in the country, while being one of the largest in the country in many different economic and population categories. It is a shame that they even hesitate or have to think about backdating our UI claims, while families are starving and going deeper in debt. Many people do not have savings or credit cards to buy food. We need help now.

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