May 20, 2020

The Journey of the Jobless [The American Prospect]

This post was last updated on December 8, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.

On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.

Kalena Thomhave writes:

"OVER THE PAST DECADES, states have diverged in their approach to UI, as some have altered policies in order to please employers over workers. Back during the Great Recession, the majority of states exhausted their trust funds and had to borrow from the federal government. As the country recovered, states needed to pay those loans back; after a short grace period, federal UI taxes on employers would increase to make up the gap. More conservative states instead covered the costs by slashing benefits and benefit duration to pay down the debt.

Modernization does not necessarily equal UI benefits in a jobless worker’s pocket. Florida’s Reemployment Assistance program—the state’s name for UI—was modernized in 2013 and specifically designed to keep benefit access low, according to a Politico report. The new system, designed by Deloitte, was riddled with glitches and errors even when it debuted seven years ago. (Deloitte delivered a similarly error-prone UI system to Massachusetts that same year.)

A Florida audit report from 2019 also documented known errors in the system.


"Even before the pandemic, Florida’s rules were so restrictive that, on average, just one in every ten jobless workers benefited from the program. 'Here we are at a point where our system couldn’t handle [UI] claims under normal circumstances, much less the influx now,' says Cindy Huddleston [emphasis added], an attorney and senior policy analyst at the Florida Policy Institute in Orlando. The state has had to 'suddenly go from zero to a hundred miles per hour overnight.'"


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