Changes to Florida Unemployment Due to COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented number of Florida workers to experience layoffs, reduced hours and furloughs.
While the Florida unemployment program was initially overwhelmed by the high volume of new applicants, the state is making frequent updates to the program and its rules to ensure all Floridians can access economic relief during this difficult time.
New changes to the program include:
- Creating a new mobile-friendly website for online applications
- Waiving the one-week delay for payments, the work search requirement and the work registration requirement
- Extending federal benefits to self-employed workers, contractors and gig economy workers
- Offering paper applications to Floridians without internet access
Many people are facing lengthy wait times while filing for unemployment benefits or contacting the Reemployment Assistance Program, but the state is using every agency and resource available to get Floridians the assistance they need as soon as possible.
Updated Website for Online Unemployment Applications
Due to the staggering number of new unemployment claims submitted to CONNECT, Florida’s website for processing online applications, many applicants experienced errors and glitches that prevented them from filing successfully.
To address this problem, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) has launched a new unemployment website that streamlines the application process. It also provides a much better experience for mobile users applying on their smartphone or tablet.
Early reviews of the new website indicate that users are not experiencing the same errors and glitches affecting the CONNECT website.
If you have any issues during the online application process, review the DEO’s list of frequently asked questions. The state has updated the list with questions about applying for benefits during the COVID-19 crisis.
Florida Now Accepting Paper Applications
With public libraries closed, unemployed workers may not have access to a computer to file an online application. If you can’t access a computer or mobile device with internet access, you can now mail in a paper application for Florida unemployment assistance.
FedEx is assisting with this process by offering free printing and mailing options for paper applications at more than 100 stores statewide.
You can visit FedEx to print and send out your paper application. You should complete your form using blue or black ink and mail it to:
Tallahassee, FL 32314-5350
Keep in mind that paper applications will take longer to process than online applications. If you already completed an unemployment application through the CONNECT website and your application is pending, do not submit an additional paper application.
Governor Waives One-Week Payment Delay and Work Search Requirement
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has waived the mandatory delay that prevented applicants from receiving benefits during the first week of their unemployment. In addition, DeSantis dropped the requirements to contact at least five potential employers per week and complete work registration on the Employ Florida website.
You still need to log into the Reemployment Assistance website every two weeks to request your benefits. The work search requirement and full work registration requirement has been waived only for applicants requesting benefits for the weeks of March 15 to May 2. You must fulfill these requirements if you requested benefits before March 15.
Duration of Benefits May Be Extended
When the state unemployment rate increases above 5 percent, Florida extends the duration of benefits beyond the standard 12 weeks.
An additional week is added for every 0.5 percent increase to the unemployment rate above 5 percent. The maximum possible extension is 23 weeks. According to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the Florida unemployment rate for February was 2.8 percent.
Additional Financial Relief Through the Federal CARES Act
The federal government’s COVID-19 relief package, known as the CARES Act, provides eligible unemployed individuals $600 per week for four months.
Those who qualify will receive this benefit in addition to their weekly Florida unemployment benefit. The federal unemployment benefit payments are scheduled to end July 31, 2020.
The CARES Act also authorizes direct relief payments to qualifying individuals and families. If you filed your 2019 or 2018 tax return and received your refund through direct deposit, your emergency relief payment will be automatically deposited in your bank account.
The payment amount for those who qualify is $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for married couples and up to $500 for each child.
Self-Employed and Gig Economy Workers Now Qualify for Unemployment Benefits
Floridians who are self-employed, nonprofit workers or contractors — including gig economy workers such as Uber and Lyft drivers — do not typically qualify for state benefits.
However, the CARES Act allows these workers to apply for $600 per week in federal benefits by filing through Florida’s unemployment system. As of April 9, 2020, the state is still developing a process to accept these claims.
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