June 25, 2021

840,000 Floridians Will Lose Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Benefits This Weekend

Governor DeSantis' decision to cut off FPUC benefits puts recovery further out of reach, especially for workers of color

Congress must act now to reform UI and fill the gaps exposed during the pandemic and recession

ORLANDO, Fla. – Beginning on June 26, roughly 840,000 Floridians will lose $300 a week in much-needed income, a result of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to take away Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefits months ahead of the program’s expiration.

In Florida, 50,000 people applied for unemployment insurance (UI) in May alone. While overall unemployment levels are down from their pandemic peak, today’s unemployment rate of 4.9 percent still far exceeds the levels seen in February 2020. As is true across the country, unemployment rates for Black and Latino Floridians are significantly higher than rates for white Floridians, a result of historic and ongoing discriminatory policies and practices that have built barriers to opportunity for families of color. Latino and Black Floridians face unemployment rates of 9.5 and 11.2 percent, respectively.

About half of UI recipients in Florida are people of color, according to National Employment Law Project data.

“For many Floridians, the recovery is still far away. Families are still struggling to put food on the table and keep up with monthly bills at rates far higher than before COVID struck our state,” said Sadaf Knight, CEO of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Florida Policy Institute (FPI). “Pandemic unemployment benefits like Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation have been a lifeline that helped many Floridians stay afloat during the crisis, and now part of that lifeline has been taken away, with the harm falling disproportionately on Black and brown families.”

Congress strengthened UI as part of the CARES Act to provide additional payments beyond states’ usual partial wage replacement and expanded eligibility to workers who are normally unable to obtain UI benefits, such as workers with very low wages and/or intermittent work, gig workers, and self-employed workers. Those improvements to UI kept money flowing to families and small businesses when they needed it most, setting the stage for an economic rebound when vaccinations made a return to in-person economic activity safer.

Congress must now take the following steps to reform UI and protect Florida families:

  • Prohibit UI coverage barriers that disproportionately hurt low-wage workers, workers of color, and women. Fewer than 1 in 2 unemployed workers received benefits from the regular UI program in Florida. Coverage barriers are particularly bad for workers of color and for women. Congress must reform UI so that lower-wage workers qualify for benefits and UI claimants who seek part-time work do not lose all their benefits at once, leaving them worse off than they were without a job.
  • Require a minimum national wage replacement rate for every state. In the U.S., UI only makes up for 44 percent of a worker’s wage, on average. This number is even lower in Florida, as the state has capped its maximum weekly UI benefits at $275.  For example, a draft proposal in the U.S. Senate calls for a 75 percent replacement rate of up to two-thirds of a state’s average weekly wage.
  • Require a minimum of 26 weeks of regular UI benefits in every state. Until the last recession, all states routinely provided at least 26 weeks of regular UI benefits. After the Great Recession, however, some states began cutting back, going as low as 12 weeks in Florida.  All workers deserve adequate protection after job loss to provide for themselves and their families as they search for new work.

“We need our Congressional delegation to strengthen UI at the federal level to fill in the gaps so that more Floridians can get back on track and share in the recovery,” added Knight.

is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing state policies and budgets that improve the economic mobility and quality of life for all Floridians.

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