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Unemployment benefits extension confirmed as COVID-19 relief package is signed into law

Posted at 7:13 PM, Dec 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-28 19:13:45-05

TAMPA, Fla. — After a week of waiting, the President signed the COVID-19 relief package into law which will push forward an extension of unemployment benefits and a new round of stimulus checks that many Floridian’s have waited for.

But, as of right now, there is no real timeline on when folks can start applying for those benefits.

Since the end of July, Brady O’Neill has been getting by as best he can on $130 a week.

“It’s a concern every single day, every single week whether or not I’m gonna be able to have food, I’ll be able to make my car payment or just be able to survive,” O’Neill said.

He, along with hundreds of thousands of Floridians, found themselves jobless this year and when the most recent COVID-19 relief package lawmakers seemed to finally agree on was in limbo, so was O’Neill.

I couldn’t believe that it took so long to sign it,” he said. “It’s just been a crazy back-and-forth and I’ve never felt so held hostage.”

He and his two roommates are worried rules set forth by the company they rent from will leave them without a house in February. The new bill only extends the eviction Moratorium until January 31.

“We can’t be the only ones in the situation, so I’m hoping they can come up with a plan,” he said.

And while it’s not a lot, O’Neill is relieved to see the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program extended, which will provide jobless American’s a $300 dollar weekly benefit check for 11 weeks. It began on December 27 which will take him and others to mid-March.

State Representative Anna Eskamani believes people will likely have to reapply.

“It will likely be something similar to the quarter change where folks basically have to reaffirm they are still eligible for these federal programs,” she said.

But there are still a few unknowns — how long will it take the DEO to implement the program into CONNECT and, “Will Floridians be able to backdate their claims under these new programs so they don’t miss any of those $300 payments which were supposed to start this week?” Eskamani asked.

ABC Action News posed the questions to the FL DOE, and representatives there sent this statement:

On Dec. 27, 2020, a federal COVID-19 relief package that extends and provides additional federal unemployment benefits was signed into law.

While the Department has been working diligently on these additional benefits, it must first receive guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) before changes can be fully implemented and payments can be issued, as was the case when the CARES Act was initially enacted.

The Department has been in frequent communication with USDOL and will provide more information when it becomes available.

“With the recent signing of federal COVID-19 relief, DEO has begun implementing revisions and updates for eligible Floridians seeking Reemployment Assistance and awaits the required guidelines from the U.S. Department of Labor,” said Dane Eagle Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “Our number one priority continues to be ensuring that all eligible Floridians are paid as quickly as possible, and we look forward to assisting Floridians to navigate the new program extensions as they become available.”

The new bill also provides people making 75,000 or less a $600 stimulus check.

It also says folks who were overpaid federal benefits by no fault of their own won’t have to pay them back. Eskamani believes the state should implement a similar rule. when it comes to overpaid state payments.