Senate President Wilton Simpson suggested Wednesday that his priority to increase weekly unemployment benefits by $100 likely won’t happen this Session.
A week ago, the Senate President, a Trilby Republican, declared that effort still alive. But the 2021 Regular Session ends on Friday, and the House hasn’t taken up the bill (SB 1906) to raise benefits from $275 to $375 per week and extending them from 12 weeks to 14 weeks.
“It’s probably my fault that it may not be alive,” Simpson told reporters Wednesday evening. “I really liked the bill. I’m committed to it. I think it’s the right thing to do.”
Florida has some of the lowest weekly benefits in the nation, and for one of the shortest periods of time. Throughout the pandemic, many unemployed Floridians relied on federal supplements to state unemployment benefits.
Democrats, led by Reps. Anna V. Eskamani and Carlos Guillermo Smith, last week attempted to amend a bill in the House regarding the Department of Economic Opportunity to increase benefits to $375 and lengthen benefits to 23 weeks. However, the Republican-led House voted those measures down.
Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ dismissed the proposal during a press conference earlier this month.
“Our unemployment is what it is. It’s fine,” DeSantis said. “We’ve paid out $26 billion over the last year, That’s got to be more than the previous 10 or 20 years combined.”
House Speaker Chris Sprowls, speaking to reporters after the Senate bill passed, did not directly state his position on the matter. Instead Sprowls pivoted to talk about his priority legislation that revamps the state’s consumer facing workforce system.
“We’re not getting people back to work. Our focus should be on getting our people back to work because either they don’t know that the job is open, which by the way, I think is a real problem, which is why we did the workforce bill,” Sprowls said.
Some of Simpson’s other provisions did make it into the budget, including raising the minimum wage for state employees to $13 an hour and increased Florida Forever funding.
Still, Simpson remains committed to getting the benefits increased passed. He said he will begin negotiations earlier next Session.
“I was the one that wanted it to pass and it didn’t get done, so I’ll take credit for the non-passage,” Simpson said.