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Laid-Off Workers Left to Make Do as Businesses Get Relief

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Laid-off workers who had to fight through Florida’s broken unemployment system were promised relief with increased benefits. But, Gov. Ron DeSantis rejected the plan, telling them to prepare to get back to work.

The Florida Senate wanted to increase unemployment benefits from $275 to $375 a week, with an extended eligibility period from 12 to 14 weeks. When DeSantis said he wouldn’t support it, focusing instead on getting people back to work, the plan died in the House.

Dr. Rich Templin, director of politics and public policy for the Florida AFL-CIO, said Senate Bill 1906 was a bipartisan effort that could have fixed the many wrongs in the system.

“We still have an unemployment insurance system that is not working,” Templin contended. “And it doesn’t matter if we’re in a pandemic or the normal ups and downs of our economic cycles. Our unemployment insurance system is a joke.”

Templin pointed out instead of working to support the modest increase to help those out of work, lawmakers passed legislation to spend $4 billion to fix the unemployment computer system and cover the insurance premiums businesses would have to pay. The changes would overhaul the Department of Economic Opportunity and use money collected from online sales taxes.

However, advocates still celebrate moving the needle on the so-called alternative base period, which the Senate approved, to increase eligibility.

Karen Woodall, executive director of the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy at the Florida People’s Advocacy Center, said it’s a long-overdue technical change currently in place in 42 other states and Washington, D.C. that allows a worker to claim their most recent worked quarter for benefits.

“Who it affects are low-wage seasonal workers who work ’til the very last minute that they can and often make their highest wages in the last quarter of work. They are unable to count that,” Woodall explained.

Woodall added she believes the victory in the Senate added momentum to next year’s attempts to make the changes into law.

Templin noted there is a good chance for positive changes now that taxpayers pay a disproportionate share of the unemployment system.

“We’re hopeful we will be able to get some fixes,” Templin remarked. “Because it’s always been the business community that wants to keep unemployment insurance payments low as humanly possible because they see that as their money.”

DeSantis has indicated anyone receiving unemployment benefits will have to start showing proof that they’ve been looking for work by the end of May. He lifted that requirement early in the pandemic.

According to FileUnemployment.org, Florida is ranked among the bottom five states in the nation for unemployment compensation.

businesswoman

A los trabajadores despedidos que han tenido que luchar con el colapsado sistema de desempleo en Florida se les prometio un alivio con los mayores beneficios. Pero el gobernador Ron DeSantis rechazo el plan y les dijo que se prepararen para volver al trabajo.

El Senado de Florida quiso aumentar los beneficios por desempleo de 275 a 375 dolares por semana, con un periodo de elegibilidad extendido de 12 a 14 semanas. Cuando DeSantis dijo que no lo apoyaria, y se centro en cambio en hacer que la gente volviera a trabajar, el plan murio en la Camara.

El Dr. Rich Templin de la AFL-CIO de Florida dice que el Proyecto de Ley del Senado 1906 fue un esfuerzo bipartidista que podria haber solucionado los muchos errores del sistema.

“Todavia tenemos un sistema de seguro de desempleo que no funciona y no importa si estamos en una pandemia o en los altibajos normales de nuestros ciclos economicos,” asegura Templin. “Nuestro sistema de seguro de desempleo es una broma.”

Templin opina que en lugar de trabajar para apoyar el modesto aumento para ayudar a los desempleados, los legisladores aprobaron una legislacion para gastar cuatro billones de dolares para arreglar el sistema informatico de desempleo y asi cubrir las primas de seguros que tiene que pagar la empresa. Los cambios reformarian el Departamento de Oportunidades Economicas y se utilizaria el dinero recaudado de los impuestos sobre las ventas en linea.

Sin embargo, los defensores aun celebran mover la aguja en el llamado periodo base alternativo, aprobado por el Senado, lo que aumentaria la elegibilidad.

Karen Woodall, del Centro de Politica Fiscal y Economica de Florida, dijo que es un cambio tecnico muy atrasado actualmente vigente en otros 42 estados y DC, que permite a un trabajador reclamar los beneficios de su trimestre trabajado mas reciente.

“A quien afecta es a los trabajadores temporales con salarios bajos que trabajan hasta el ultimo minuto que pueden y a menudo obtienen sus salarios mas altos en el ultimo trimestre de trabajo,” explica Woodall.

Woodall dice que cree que la victoria en el Senado dara un impulso a los intentos del proximo ano de convertir los cambios en ley.

Templin dice que hay una buena posibilidad de cambios positivos ahora que los contribuyentes pagan una parte desproporcionada del sistema de desempleo.

“Tenemos la esperanza de poder obtener algunas soluciones porque siempre ha sido la comunidad empresarial la que quiere mantener los pagos del seguro de desempleo lo mas bajos posible porque ven eso como su dinero”, asegura Templin.

DeSantis ha indicado que cualquier persona que reciba beneficios de desempleo ahora debera comprobar que ha estado buscando trabajo a finales de mayo. Preciso ese requisito al comienzo de la pandemia.

Segun FileUnemployment.org, Florida se encuentra entre los cinco ultimos estados de la nacion en cuanto a compensacion por desempleo.

Sunshine Slate
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