Many unemployed Floridians may have received an unpleasant Christmas present when they lost their financial benefits, food stamps and other aid through the state. Official reports show that emergency unemployment benefits expired for a large number of state residents in late December, leaving new questions about employee rights in Florida. A significant percentage of these individuals lost their jobs through no fault of their own, instead suffering because of economic hardship that forced layoffs and other extreme measures. The expired emergency unemployment program had been created in the wake of the Great Recession, and it worked to create a stopgap for workers who had received the maximum amount of state benefits.
One man, age 62, was laid off from his job as a registered nurse. He now thinks he might have to rely on his children for financial assistance, since he is facing denial of benefits. In many cases, that man is facing workplace discrimination; employers are passing him up because of his age, he believes. The man had been a physician in his native Cuba, but he is working toward finding any other job, applying at mechanic shops and even for life-guarding positions. Another 46-year-old man who had been a vice president at a local bank is also looking for work through government career centers, certainly an unfamiliar situation for someone who had achieved relative success.
Floridians are unemployed for an average of 48.7 weeks. About one in three unemployed workers have been out of a job for nearly a year, though about 17 percent found a job in less than five weeks.
Lawmakers say they are considering extending the benefits, but they cannot make any decisions about these employee rights until the legislative session convenes during the new year. Those benefits may be made retroactive for some workers, who desperately need the $250 to $257 payments that help them maintain financial solvency. Those who are concerned about losing their unemployment benefits may consider consulting a qualified employee rights attorney to learn more about their access to unemployment payments.
Source: Miami Herald, “Emergency unemployment benefits are set to expire on Saturday, leaving many jobless in South Florida worried” Ina Paiva Cordle, Dec. 25, 2013