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State to Extend Unemployment Benefits

May 6th, 2009 by flanews

Theres good news tonight for people in danger of losing their unemployment pay before they can find a job. Lawmakers voted to extend unemployment benefits by 20 weeks. But while the state is grabbing 418 million federal dollars to extend benefits, as Whitney Ray tells us, its passing up the chance to receive another half a billion dollars more.

Valarie Gainous has been unemployed from more than a year.

Its been really hard. Im a single mother, said Valarie.

Making matters worse, Valaries unemployment benefits have run dry. Jobless Floridians are eligible for 59 weeks of unemployment pay, but for many thats not enough time to find a job. Thats why lawmakers voted to lengthen the eligibility period to by 20 weeks.

What we are anticipating is, probably by the end of May having a notification out to those who are potentially eligible and hopefully by the beginning of July, having that money in Floridians hands, said Robby Cunningham, a spokesman for the Agency for Workforce Innovation.

An estimated 250,000 people will qualify to receive the extra 418 million in extended benefits from the federal stimulus package.

While the state is taking the money to extend benefits another 400 million is being left on the table.

To qualify for the money the state would have to loosen its unemployment qualification standards. Lawmakers turned their backs on the changes this year. Governor Charlie Crist hopes theyll reconsider.

Im encouraged that the deadline isnt until 2011 to get the additional money for unemployment compensation, said Crist.

With the state paying out 60 million dollars a week in unemployment claims, more money will likely be needed before then. Lawmakers estimate the states unemployment compensation fund will run out of money by July. But unemployment benefits are mandated by the federal government so the state says people who are eligible will still receive a check.

Posted in Legislature, State Budget, State News, Unemployment | No Comments »

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