The Unemployed Life

Florida’s extended (extended) unemployment benefits: The good, the bad, the ugly

First, the good news for my unemployed brothers and sisters:

Due to stagnant (and in some cases, rising) unemployment throughout the country, the Obama Administration approved another round of extended benefits for laid-off Americans earlier this month. Although there is confusion surrounding who will actually get these benefits, under the best case scenerio, unemployed Floridians will receive 20 more weeks of benefits to help you get through another four months of job searching.

Well, some of us will receive those benefits (about 250,000 according to the St. Petersburg Times). Which brings me to the bad news.

If you already exhausted your benefits before the bill was passed on Nov. 6, you probably aren’t eligible (although the state says you can apply).  Also, only those Floridians who will run out of all benefits between Nov. 6 and Dec. 27 qualify for the extra weeks.

There is a lot of confusion on who qualifies for the new extension and since the state unemployment office doesn’t make much sense explaining it, they’ve set up a webpage for you to check if you qualify (click on the button that says “Check your eligibility).

That fine print has some advocacy groups upset. The National Employment Law Center just released a study that found over a million American workers will be ineligible for benefits in January 2010. Federal workers have it worse; they estimate over three million of those workers will remain unemployed.

But things get uglier.

The state has already run out of the money to pay for benefits, partly due to the Florida Legislature’s inane idea to not accept federal stimulus money for unemployment insurance. So, as unemployment rises to record levels, there is another cloud on the horizon. Due to a clause in state law, businesses will be taxed extra for unemployment benefits next year. And by “extra,” I’m mean a tax hike approaching 120 percent, which I’m sure can’t be good for companies barely keeping afloat.

Talk about a vicious circle.

The Unemployed Life

Florida throws a bone: Extended benefits to the unemployed

If you’re unemployed like me, you’ve probably heard about the extended benefits program for Florida’s jobless, mostly likely while waiting on the Agency for Workforce Innovation phone line. So, you are probably — like me — completely freakin’ confused about the whole thing. How do I apply? How many weeks do I get? Any extra requirements?

Here’s the short answers:

You apply either by mail (the state will send you application) or at the online site you normally claim your benefits from after you’ve exhausted the normal benefit limit. You get up to 20 weeks, provided you don’t find a job before then. There are no extra qualifications, but you may be asked to provide proof that you’ve been looking for work at least twice a week. If you have all those e-mails, letters and application copies saved on your computer, now is a good time to compile them.

I don’t have time to put all the details in Alex-speak, but I hope the following couple links help you out:

  • FAQ by the state. This has a little bit more info about your work requirements.