Florida Republicans and Governor Rick Scott Stick It To The Working Persons Again
The new law also makes it more difficult for unemployed residents to qualify for unemployment benefits, denying them for misconduct such as chronic absenteeism or violation of an employer’s rules -- even outside of work.
Republicans in both Houses argued the bill was critical to protecting Florida’s business climate. The measure also supports Scott’s budget plan to reduce unemployment taxes for employers by $630.8 million.
Democratic representatives, and civic groups including Florida New Majority, objected to the legislation, HB 7005, saying benefit cuts would disproportionately affect black, Latino and low-income families.
The new law doesn’t affect Florida residents currently on unemployment benefits. Beginning Jan. 1, 2012, the number of available state benefit weeks is reduced from 26 to 23 and the number of available state benefit weeks is tied to the unemployment rate on a sliding scale. If unemployment rate is 5 percent or lower, for example, the number of available weeks is 12. If the unemployment rate is 10.5 percent or higher, the number of available weeks is 23.
The law also mandates an initial skills review for unemployed residents to qualify for state benefit. It also provides for registration with a one-stop career center for reemployment services and requires those receiving benefits to contact at least five prospective employers each week to continue receiving benefits.
Before the new law, Florida already had one of the strictest unemployment compensation programs in the country, said the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for the unemployed. The 75-year national standard for unemployment benefits has been 26 weeks.
Florida’s unemployment rate is also among the highest in the nation, at 10.6 percent in May.