Unemployment Overhaul Moving Through Florida House

MIAMI (CBS4) – The GOP-dominated state House committee has given approval to a rewrite of Florida’s unemployment compensation laws that will cut benefits to the jobless and make it harder to secure benefits.

According to the News Service of Florida, Republican Representative Erik Fresen said the rewrite of the legislation is needed because businesses are having trouble paying rising unemployment tax rates due to the number of businesses that collapsed in the Great Recession.

“There is no employee without an employer,” Fresen said. “We have to assure there is a climate where businesses can grow.”

The new rules are virtually the same as Governor Rick Scott’s plan released earlier in February. It would impact workers in three main ways.

First, it will drop the duration of state unemployment benefits from 26 to 20 weeks. Second, it will maintain the current maximum payment of $275-a-week for unemployment benefits. Third, it would tie the benefits to the state’s unemployment rate.

Tying the benefits to the state’s unemployment rate would mean a jobless worker could receive a check for a maximum of 12 weeks if unemployment hits 5 percent or less.

Democratic Representative Joe Abruzzo accused the GOP of advancing a “socialized bill,” because it shifted the costs away from businesses by limiting benefits to unemployed worker. Abruzzo said that would force jobless Floridians onto state Medicaid rolls and other taxpayer-financed assistance programs.

The legislation is being pushed by the National Federation of Independent Business, the Florida Retail Federation and the state Chamber of Commerce.

The bill would also make it easier for companies to challenge a fired or laid-off workers unemployment claim, making it even more difficult for workers being crushed in a crumbling economy to receive any aid.

The state of Florida currently owes interest on $1.8 billion the state has borrowed from the federal government during the past two years to continue paying unemployment benefits. President Barack Obama has proposed allowing the states to postpone the interest payments.

However, Republicans in charge of the Florida House and Senate said that deferring the payments isn’t an option and they are intent on reworking the state’s unemployment system.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)

  • Doalfre

    This needs to be challenged in court.If people pay into a system and cannot use it when needed.Typical Republcan anti-worker Bill.Vote these people OUT.

  • tacnacs2

    perfect now some of these people that are ripping off the system will finally get off there behind and go look for a job

    • Dave Brown

      It’s funny how everyone attacks the people out of work in this economy, but nobody ever says anything about Welfare or food stamps that people are clearly
      taking advantage of for years and continue to ride the system much longer than Unemployment!!!

  • Kwelitupu

    When the economy is down, the genuinely unemployed are in greater need of help, not less. None of those pushing for these propositions have gone hungry or jobless and so find it easy to hit where it hurts the most. Heartless crooks. Vote them out.

  • mike

    They should tie the unemployment rate to how many years a person has woked and paid in.
    These benefits are going to a lot of people who just work the minium so they can collect unemploymnet.
    Reward the one’s who paid in and punish the freeloaders.

    • Dave Brown

      you only get Unemployment if you have worked and yet you can ride Welfare for as long as you want but that is ok right? AMAZED

  • Harriett

    Well if Scott would come up with those jobs he promised when running for governor we would not have so much unemployment. But he and his GOP friends want lay off more people. If they have their way the entire state will be unemployed and on Medicaid in the next 4 years.

  • Peter Colon

    Keep voting Republican Floridians. You will be celebrating your tea party under a bridge.

  • RH

    Peter Colon, I agree with you. Too many people rely on the media and those bad mouthing Republicans without realizing they are going to ruin the prospects for FL. With all their promises and propagandas we will end up losing a whole lot of jobs. I hope those that ended up being impacted by voting for Rick Scott and those Republicans wake up and smell the coffee as well as learn from it.

  • Dave Brown

    I have always had a job since I was a kid and now finding it very hard to find a job at the age of 48, I am getting the push because of my age and finding more jobs that call for BILINGUAL a must, the company I worked the last 18 year for went out of Business and with the bad economy my field has also taken the downward spiral causing me to find something else which again is hard because of my age and most calling for 3 to 5 years experience just to get in the door!!

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