Below are answers to Frequently Asked Questions regarding unemployment assistance courtesy of the House Ways & Means Committee and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity:
Q: How do I apply for unemployment insurance in Florida? Am I eligible?
A: Click here to learn more about Florida’s unemployment insurance and how to apply. Frequently asked questions about eligibility for Florida’s unemployment insurance are available here. If the online application is not working for you, there is also now a paper application alternative.
Q: The Florida unemployment insurance system is not working. What can I do?
A: I have received a number of concerns about the accessibility of Florida’s unemployment system, so I reached out to the state officials in charge of the system, and I have expressed the urgency of getting the system to work reliably. I have been told that the system is designed to address a trickle of unemployment claims, but it is facing an onslaught right now. At my urging, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is in the process of hiring additional staff and IT contractors, as well as updating their network capacity to address the increase in number of claims. In the meantime, they currently recommend applying online at non-peak hours and/or calling first thing in the morning for assistance. If the online application is not working for you, there is also now a paper application alternative. I will keep advocating the urgency of addressing this issue!
Q: I tried to apply for unemployment assistance while the system was down. Can I receive retroactive benefits?
A: Yes. If you attempted to apply and were not able to file a claim between the weeks of March 9, 2020, to April 9, 2020, your claim date can be adjusted to the date you originally tried to apply. If you are eligible, you will be paid all benefits due. Click here to request retroactive benefits.
Q: Is there any federal unemployment support available?
A: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act also dedicated $250 billion to give unemployed individuals more access to unemployment benefits during this public health emergency. This funding provides temporary additional support for American workers impacted by COVID-19. This additional support is provided in the form of two temporary changes: an increase in weekly benefit amount through July 31, 2020 and an extension in the number of weeks that an individual may collect benefits through December 31, 2020. Additional information on this support is detailed below.
Q: How do I apply for federal unemployment assistance?
A: The application process will also be handled by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. An announcement will be made on their website when additional information is available.
Q: How much do unemployed workers receive?
A: Unemployment benefits in Florida are available up to $275 per week. The federal CARES Act provides an additional $600 per week on top of whatever a person would normally receive. This additional benefit expires on July 31, 2020.
Q: How long do unemployment benefits last?
A: The state of Florida provides access to unemployment benefits for a maximum of 12 weeks. The CARES Act provides federal funding for an additional 13 weeks for those who need it. In total, individuals could receive up to 25 weeks of unemployment benefits. Funding for this additional benefit expires December 31, 2020.
Q: Are self-employed and independent contractors eligible?
A: Self-employed and independent contractors, like gig workers and Uber drivers, are eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance through the federal government; however, they are not eligible for Florida's state-level unemployment insurance. The federal program also covers workers laid off from churches and religious institutions who may not be eligible under the state’s program. Please note: if you are in this category and applied for the state’s Reemployment Assistance benefits on or before April 4, 2020, then you must re-apply at www.FloridaJobs.org and select “File a Claim” to request PUA.
Q: Are furloughed workers eligible?
A: Yes. Furloughed workers are eligible to receive unemployment benefits and part-time workers can receive partial benefits. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program also helps workers stay connected to their employer by allowing unemployment benefits for workers who have a job but are unable to work or telework due to COVID-19-related reasons and are not receiving paid leave through their employer.
Q: Can individuals get more on unemployment than they got in their paycheck?
A: The additional $600 in weekly benefits is designed to keep as many workers as whole as possible through the emergency. Some may temporarily receive more benefit than their paycheck – though that number is very small compared to everyone receiving unemployment. The temporary $600 is only available through July 31st.
Q: Are unemployment benefits taxable and do they count as income?
A: Yes. Unemployment benefits are taxable income and they generally count as income when determining eligibility for public assistance programs.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to our office at 202-225-3026.