Florida plans to end extra jobless benefits next month

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Florida is joining a growing list of Republican-led states that plan to end participation in a federal program that gave an extra $300 per week in benefits to the unemployed during the pandemic.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity announced Monday that the state will withdraw from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program effective June 26.

State labor officials said private-sector employment increased by 18,800 jobs last month and more than 460,000 online job postings were made throughout the state for job seekers.

“Florida’s employers are also seeing employment growth, as more Floridians, including some who completely left the workforce, are now eagerly reentering the workforce,” said Dane Eagle, Secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “Transitioning away from this benefit will help meet the demands of small and large businesses who are ready to hire and expand their workforce.”

At least 22 other states also have announced plans to end the enhanced benefits early. The federal program is set to end in September.

Florida will continue to participate in other federal pandemic-related unemployment programs aimed at the self-employed, people who already have exhausted their unemployment benefits and gig workers. These federal benefit programs also are set to expire in early September.

The federal benefits for the unemployed came on top of the state benefits which top off at $275 a week, among the lowest in the nation.

State Rep. Ana Eskmani, who last summer assisted tens of thousands of unemployed workers who had trouble navigating the state’s difficult computer system for unemployment benefits, said her office was still getting complaints from Floridians who are missing weeks, if not months, of benefits.

“It’s shameful that Florida’s political leaders would choose ideological talking points and call workers lazy versus listen to the obstacles workers have faced in finding suitable work in our still recovering economy,” said Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat. “The state should prioritize people in need — not make it harder for them to get back on their feet.”