Consumer

South Florida Jobless To Lose Benefits Sooner

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TALLAHASSEE (CBS4) – Out of work Floridians will now receive fewer weeks of unemployment benefits.

On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill into law that scales back the number of weeks for state unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 23 weeks, causing emergency federal benefits to kick in more quickly and essentially shaving three weeks off the total run of benefits.

Under the measure, the number of weeks of unemployment insurance available would gradually decline further once the unemployment rate dips below 10.5 percent, bottoming out at 12 weeks if the unemployment rate hits 5 percent.

The bill also makes it more difficult for Floridians who lose their jobs to qualify for unemployment benefits to begin with.

The current maximum unemployment benefit dollar amount stays the same under the measure, at $275 a week, already near the bottom of states. Federal statistics show the state’s average weekly benefit is just over $230.

The measure was a major priority for the state’s business groups, who feared a continuing increase in taxes as the unemployment rate hovers above 10 percent.

Opponents slammed the changes, saying they come at the worst possible time and could hurt the economy by ending state aid for those most likely to spend it.

“This was a ghoulish attack on the victims of the recession to benefit the big guys at the top that caused it,” said Rich Templin, a lobbyist for AFL-CIO.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)

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