The Senate Committee on Commerce and Tourism advanced a bill Monday that would increase Florida’s weekly unemployment benefit.
The state’s maximum payment is now among the lowest in the nation, providing the unemployed a maximum of $275 per week.
Under the proposal (SB 1906), the maximum benefit would increase to $375 per week.
Republican Sen. Jason Brodeur of Sanford is the bill sponsor.
“We have a moral obligation to provide enough support to help meet some basic needs for Floridians who are out of work, through no fault of their own, and are looking for employment,” Brodeur said.
The bill advanced without several Democratic amendments.
Among them, Democratic Sen. Victor Torres of Kissimmee filed an amendment to increase the proposed payment to $500 a week. The amendment would’ve also extended the benefit duration from 12 to 26 weeks.
The amendment failed.
Throughout the meeting, Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo of Miami-Dade repeatedly probed Brodeur as to why he’s seeking to raise the weekly benefit by $100.
Pizzo described the bump as “arbitrary,” noting that the proposed amount will soon fall below the state’s minimum wage.
Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment last year that will incrementally raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2026.
Alternatively, Pizzo proposed that payments should be tied to Florida’s minimum wage. The duration of those payments, he added, should be linked to the unemployment rate.
“I don’t want to come back to this,” Pizzo said. “I don’t want to revisit it again.”
Brodeur, meanwhile, described the bill as a “good starting point.”
The bill comes after Florida’s unemployment system crumbled during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond the system’s inability to stay online, the failure also spotlighted Florida’s notoriously low benefits.
Comparatively, California offers $450 a week for up to 26 weeks. Texas offers $535 a week for up to 26 weeks. And New York offers $504 for up to 26 weeks.
Moreover, Alabama offers $275 for up to 14 weeks while Georgia offers $365 for up to 20 weeks.
The discrepancy plagued Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Republicans.
“Loss of a job is one of the most stressful things a family can go through and we need to have a meaningful benefit that Floridians can rely on,” said Senate President Wilton Simpson in a statement.
Brodeur’s proposal moves next to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development.
It is also slated to appear before the Senate Appropriations Committee.
If signed into law, the bill would take effect July 1.