For most out-of-work Floridians, the state’s unemployment benefits will prove to be disappointing.
A report out this week from the National Employment Law Project, a nonpartisan research group, puts the Sunshine State at the bottom of the nation in the rate of unemployed people who actually receive state unemployment insurance. Just one state is as bad as Florida, the report’s authors write: South Carolina.
From June 2014 to June 2015, just 12 percent — one in eight — of the unemployed here actually received benefits, the report says. It’s a number that’s gotten lower in recent years as new requirements from the state and glitches with an online system meant to streamline unemployment claims have cut the success rate of claimants down by more than half in five years, down from more than 30 percent in the height of the recession.
By comparison, the average across the country is now 27 percent, although it has fallen since the recession, as well.
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“Unemployment insurance is a basic lifeline for America’s workers when they lose jobs through no fault of their own,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, in a written statement. “Workers earn these benefits through their work histories, and like any insurance policy, the purpose is to help provide needed financial support when there is a catastrophic event—in this case, involuntary job loss.”
One of the biggest hurdles to receiving benefits, according to NELP, has been the rollout of CONNECT, an online filing system for unemployment in the state, which cost $77 million to start in 2013. After the website launched, people saw months-long delays in receiving funding.
But the study’s authors also point to a law passed in 2011 that requires those seeking benefits to routinely report information about their job search, which has led to a steep rise in people being disqualified for procedural problems.
A spokesperson for the Department of Economic Opportunity, which oversees jobless benefits did not immediately provide a comment.