April 6, 2021

Workers of Color, People in Low-Wage Industries, and Workers in Poor Health Struggle to Access Unemployment Insurance Benefits, Report Finds

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.

Non-profit think tank calls for Florida DEO to make available demographic data and information on claims’ resolution in order to address disparities

ORLANDO, Fla. - A new report from the non-partisan Florida Policy Institute (FPI) found that Black, Latino, and multiracial Floridians, along with workers in poor health and those in low-wage industries, have struggled to access unemployment insurance (UI) benefits.

The report, “Inequities in Reemployment Assistance in Florida: Pandemic Data Raises More Questions Than It Answers,”  found that, in Florida:

  • Black and Latino applicants are less likely than white applicants to receive UI benefits. Twenty-three percent of Black applicants and 28.5 percent of Latino applicants said that they did not receive unemployment assistance, compared to 15.3 percent of white applicants.
  • Applicants in poor health are less likely to receive assistance than applicants in better health. Almost half of applicants whose health is poor said that they did not receive unemployment assistance, a much higher rate than that reported by applicants in better health. Yet poor health does not in and of itself make a claimant  for UI ineligible in every instance.
  • The massive job loss figures in the Leisure and Hospitality sector and UI claims from workers in the industry do not align. Despite shouldering the bulk of job losses in Florida, Leisure and Hospitality workers make up only 19 percent of all initial claims filed in the state since the start of the pandemic.

“The data show that there are significant disparities in Floridians' access to unemployment insurance benefits, which are especially critical as workers face persistent unemployment and continued uncertainty during this health crisis,” FPI CEO Sadaf Knight said. “But in order to address these underlying issues and create a more accessible and equitable program, we need comprehensive, publicly available data to understand why so many claimants are being deemed as ineligible.”

While the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) collects demographic information from claimants applying for Reemployment Assistance (RA) program benefits, the department has not made public aggregate data on age, sex, race, and ethnicity, nor has it provided enough information about the resolution of Floridians’ RA claims, including whether or not claimants were deemed ineligible because DEO faulted them for losing their job, they did not earn enough in their base period to qualify, or they had failed to follow through in submitting required documentation.

The report, authored by Cindy Huddleston, senior policy analyst and attorney at FPI, analyzed U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey data and DEO data on UI claims by industry.

FPI 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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