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Floridians navigate unemployment payments amid COVID-19 pandemic

Republican Senators unveil proposed relief plan
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Posted at 11:12 PM, Jul 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-27 23:29:39-04

TAMPA, Fla. — When Charissa Ward said she was furloughed from her job as a server at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, she said she thought it would be for a couple of weeks. But weeks have turned into months, and Ward says she’s still not back at her job she’s had for more than 15 years.

“I don’t really know when I’m gonna go back so that’s really scary,” Ward said.

She said she typically worked between 32 and 50 hours a week at her part-time job. Ward said she’s receiving unemployment benefits that don’t replace her income but help with the bills.

With $600 federal payments ending, she will have to look at how to cut her budget and how to come up with extra money for the mortgage.

“It’s really unknown really what to do. I’ve reached out applied for some new jobs it would be basically a career change for me which there’s a lot of competition for other careers,” said the Central Florida mother of three.

Under the CARES Act, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation provided $600 weekly payments to claimants. The last claim week is the week ending July 25.

Florida DEO said if someone hasn’t received their FPUC payments they should make sure their address and bank information are correct in their CONNECT account.

“An eligible claimant who claims weeks between March 29 and the week ending July 25 will receive their Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefits. Claimants must request their benefits every two weeks. We are finding that most people who are still having issues, and have requested their benefits, have a unique issue and need to speak to a Reemployment Assistance customer service representative,” stated Florida DEO.

“Many of these folks have never applied for unemployment and every single week I have constituents reach out to my office they’re calling because they’re missing payments,” said State Sen. Janet Cruz.

Cruz said for people still waiting for the federal money, she’s been told people will not lose what they’re eligible for.

“These problems aren’t gonna go away any time soon and when we see the $600 benefit go away we’re gonna see folks really really struggling. When the PPE money runs out we’re gonna see more layoffs because I think some of that money was propping up small businesses,” said Cruz.

Monday afternoon, Senate Republicans outlined their next proposal for a relief bill.

“This unprecedented expansion of federal assistance will help millions of workers, families, patients, businesses and governments survive this historic public health and economic crisis,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Senate Finance Committee Chairman, stated in a news release. “The American people are doing their part to combat this deadly disease and the federal government must do its part as well. This legislation serves as a starting point for bipartisan negotiations. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to not let partisan differences derail progress.”

According to the Finance Committee provisions, it would provide payments of $200 for unemployment through September. In October, it would provide 70 percent of lost wages when combined with state UI payments, with a payment up to $500. That additional payment would count as income in eligibility determinations for federal low-income programs starting in October.

It also calls for another $1,200 stimulus payment, similar to the CARES Act. This round extends $500 for dependents to taxpayers with dependents of any age.

It would also provide $2 billion to help states upgrade their state unemployment insurance systems and give more authority for the Department of Labor to hold state’s accountable for their performance, according to the plan’s outline.

“Senator Rick Scott will look at every option to help those that have lost their jobs during this unimaginable crisis. He also wants to make sure small businesses are supported and Congress does not create a disincentive to work by paying people more to not work than they would receive if they were back on the job,” stated a spokesperson for Senator Rick Scott.

The U.S. House of Representatives previously passed the Heroes Act in May.

“We’ve been waiting for the senate to come to the negotiating table they should not have waited to the 11th hour. This is gonna cause a lot of pain for families who are awaiting evictions who are wondering what’s next for the many have been searching for work but our unemployment rate it’s very difficult,” said U.S. Representative Kathy Castor before the Senate Republican’s formal announcement.

The Congresswoman said the $600 payments needed to be continued.

“It’s important that that $600 a week benefit continues because that puts food on the table pay their bills stay connected to their health insurance which is absolutely vital in a public health crisis,” she said. “Families really struggled to get their benefits in the first place because of the debacle that was the Florida unemployment insurance system. They finally got those payments they’re hanging on pretty well but they need this lifeline to continue.”

“I know many of my constituents are experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic. I’ve been working directly with approximately 5,000 constituents during the past few months to help them receive benefits. I’m also working closely with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to encourage continued bipartisan, bicameral negotiations with the goal of ensuring ongoing federal support for those Americans who most need the help,” stated Congressman Gus Bilirakis in a statement.

Meanwhile, Ward said she’s applied for at least a half dozen jobs.

“We want to go back to work but we also have to survive we still have to support our families in the meantime,” Ward said. “That’s why we need the $600. Again it’s not replacing my income.”