Job seekers surviving on unemployment benefits that top out at $275 a week aren’t the only ones facing a financial squeeze.
Business groups and Republican lawmakers point to dire finances for the state’s unemployment system, which has been sapped by an economic downturn that left more than 1 million Floridians seeking work.
Unemployment benefits are paid through an insurance system that gets little attention in good times. Employers pay a small premium every year, and workers who are laid off collect benefits.
However, with more people collecting unemployment in a weak labor market, and fewer employers paying into the system as businesses have failed, costs have soared. Two years ago, the minimum unemployment insurance premium for Florida employers was $8 per year per employee. This year, the minimum has soared to $72, and next year it’s expected to top $200.
Those skyrocketing costs led the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and other business groups to push for tighter limits on unemployment benefits.
“We want small businesses to hire people, not go out of business,” said state Sen. Nancy Detert of Venice FL, sponsor of a bill that would make it harder for some to collect unemployment checks. “We’re looking for abuses of the system so we don’t put small businesses who are hanging on by a thread out of business.”
Detert is suggesting that job seekers accept low-paying job offers. During the first 12 weeks of unemployment, they’d have to accept any job that paid at least 80% of their previous wage. After that, they’d have to take any job that paid at least as much as their unemployment benefits.
This is RIDICULOUS logic as it would put more strain on the family to accept the percentage of amount and find quality childcare at a reduced cost. You cannot impose this logic without having a supplemental child care plan.
Detert also would require unemployment recipients to submit to skills tests to determine whether they’ll appeal to employers.
Now here is something I can agree with. Skill tests would allow job seeking citizens an opportunity to find and focus on their strengths to better connect with hiring employers.
In addition to Detert’s Senate bill, a House bill introduced last week would shorten the duration of state unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 20 weeks if the state unemployment rate falls below 9 percent. Florida’s jobless rate now stands at 12 percent.
And Governor Rick Scott has proposed requiring drug tests and community service of job seekers who receive unemployment benefits.
If the unemployment rate falls below 9%, I would support the concept of lessening unemployment benefit weeks. However, I disagree with Governor Scott proposal unless somebody drive out to the recipient’s house to administer the drug tests.
It would be unfair to require unemployed citizens to come out to get drug tested when the price of gas is so high and most of the time, these unemployed citizens do not have two cents to rub together. Not to mention that it is in direct violation of Florida’s Constitution Article 1, Section 12 and the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution.
Proponents of tighter rules say they’re not trying to punish the unemployed.
The intent is to weed out the system such as the example of unemployed people collecting benefits even though they’ve been fired for stealing from their employers or for failing drug tests, or even though they voluntarily quit their jobs. The push in Tallahassee aims to weed out the unknown number of Floridians who collect benefits when they shouldn’t.
I understand money is tight but we cannot unjustly squeeze Florida’s unemployment fund during a time of teetering recession/depression.
I am supportive of cuts to wasteful and abusive parts of our state’s unemployment but to require that people accept 80% of their normal pay and not provide quality childcare or require unemployed citizens to drive to take a drug test in order to qualify for unemployment is ludicrous and morally irresponsible.
To contact Senator Nancy Detert of Venice FL and tell her not to push a “work” program that doesnt have adequate and quality child care coverage which puts our children at risk, please call: (941) 480-3547.
To contact Governor Scott and ask him not to require unemployment recipients to get drug tested as it is against the 4th amendment of the US Constitution and the 1st Article/Section 12 of Florida’s Constitution, please call: (850) 488-7146.