Businesses, not workers, pay the insurance tax. This year employers will pay unemployment compensation tax on each employee of between $120.80 and $432. In Florida, the payment has been renamed reemployment assistance tax just as the benefits have been renamed reemployment assistance.
When the Department of Economic Opportunity announced the name change in July, Gov. Rick Scott said in the news release that transforming the program was "one of my top priorities for economic development and job creation." He also said employers would see $500 million in tax relief.
Complaint Filed About System
The reduction in weeks will group Florida with some other frugal states. Georgia is currently at 19 weeks based on it's unemployment rate, and Missouri, Michigan and South Carolina have all enacted 20-week maximums, said George Wentworth, senior staff attorney for the National Employment Law Project.
At a maximum of $275 a week, "Florida benefits themselves are already amongst the lowest in the country," Wentworth said.
The average weekly check was for $231 in the 12 months ending June 30, he said. That ranks the state 48th in the country. Also, the state benefit replaces 25 percent of wages, far below the 50 percent or better that most states replace.
Florida has traditionally been near the bottom of the rankings for state benefits, and a Republican-led House passed additional measures last year that made applying for and receiving benefits more technical and time-consuming.
The new system has doubled the number of people disqualified for benefits based on their job search information and tripled the number of people who are disqualified on reporting requirements.
Wentworth said that is depriving eligible people because of a "paperwork issue," though ironically, it's the fact that there's no paper involved that is creating much of the problems.
"It's driving tens of thousands of people who two years ago would have been recipients of benefits off the rolls," he said.
NELP and Florida Legal Services have jointly complained to the Labor Department about Florida's new unemployment compensation system. When lawmakers changed the number of weeks to a sliding scale based on unemployment rate, dropping to 12 weeks for a 5 percent rate, they also set in motion changes to the filing system.
The DEO as of August last year began requiring applicants to file electronically and to complete a skills test -- one that takes computer literate people 45 minutes to complete -- before they can receive benefits. The complaint outlines an electronic filing system that stymies eligible recipients in their efforts to get benefits.
The system is "harsh" on people who are desperate, said Valory Greenfield, a Florida Legal Services staff attorney.
"You're not talking about the good times rolling here," she said. "People are still having trouble getting jobs."
One of those people is Maria Cook of Wellington, who has been getting benefits since the beginning of September.
"It covers my bills" but not rent, said the single mother of two. She's applied for food stamps. Unemployment insurance changes
Denials of claims and initial claims dropped faster after the new electronic system went into effect in August 2011.
2012,Q2 2012,Q1 2011, Q4 2011,Q3 2011,Q2 2011,Q1
Total denials 79,046 86,627 89,973 79,151 54,771 51,981
Change 44.3 % 66.7% 64.4% 24.9% -11.6% -13.8%
from previous year
Initial 163,013 173,205 186,010 201,402 216,809 228,603
Change -24.8% -24.2% -20.3% -15.7% -10.4% -8.7%
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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