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Lawmakers Snubbing 500 Million Stimulus Dollars

April 15th, 2009 by flanews

Lawmakers are blowing off legislation to secure half a billion federal stimulus dollars for the state’s unemployed. In order to receive the money the state has to lighten qualification restrictions so more people can receive unemployment benefits. As Whitney Ray tells us, Florida’s jobless rate is at a 33 year high, and the state is running out of money to pay benefits.

The state’s unemployment compensation fund is falling by an estimated 60 million dollars a week. Representative Kevin Radar says the fund will be dry by June. Radar wants to loosen unemployment qualification standards to secure federal dollars for the fund.

“It costs 70, 80 million dollars to implement the program. You’re going to get 444 million dollars; it’s like a no brainer,” said Radar.

Under Radar’s proposal an extra 40,000 people would be eligible for unemployment. Benefits would be extended by 20 weeks. House leadership has refused to take up the bill saying it will raise taxes on small businesses.

Senator Tony Hill says businesses will already be asked to pay more. The state’s trust fund will be re-evaluated in June and if it’s low on cash business taxes will increase.

“They’re going to pay anyway into this trust fund, because it is below the trigger because of the high unemployment rate. The federal government is bending over backwards to trying to give us this money and we here in Tallahassee are stopping that from happening,” said Hill.

Governor Charlie Crist is asking lawmakers to act fast.

“It’s still challenging out there and we have to be sensitive and companionate and continue to do anything we can to help the people,” said Crist.

With less than three weeks left in session the legislation is likely to die unless leadership has a change of heart. The statewide unemployment rate is at 9.4 percent. New figures will be out Friday.

Posted in Charlie Crist, State Budget, State News, Unemployment | No Comments »

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