The many Floridians who lost their jobs in recent weeks, then struggled with the unemployment claims process, will get a lifeline.
DMS Secretary Jonathan Satter said the state “..will be affecting a retroactive period to March 9th so it would be the day of their job loss or March 9th” that jobless Floridians begin receiving back benefits, according to Action News Jax.
Satter, who took over managing the state’s struggling unemployment system from Department of Economic Opportunity head Ken Lawson, has been charged with rescuing the system and the Governor’s credibility on the subject of unemployment.
Democrats had called for “retroactive eligibility” for weeks, but to no avail until this week.
In early April, 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.
Democrats had asked for a retroactive date of Mar. 1. They also requested unemployments benefit be extended to independent contractors, the class of workers that receives 1099s rather than W-2s, which are not eligible for benefit under Florida law.
While there is no provision for gig workers, and Democrats did not get the extra eight days sought, the move likely can be framed as a partial victory.
There is still room to move, however.
Benefits are capped at 12 weeks with a top payout of $275 weekly, making it among the nation’s most meager benefit. The Governor has expressed confidence that the $600 federal stipend will be enough to make up for any perceived coverage deficiency.
All told, 505,000 Floridians filed for unemployment last week, with 1.16 million having successfully filed since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, out of a 10.335 million person workforce.