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Unemployed Floridians hopeful for quick passage of COVID relief bill to avoid lapse in benefits

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Posted at 11:27 PM, Mar 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-08 05:07:23-05

Thousands of unemployed Floridians are anxiously awaiting the passage of the third COVID-19 relief bill, which would extend federal benefits currently set to expire in just one week.

March 14 currently marks the end of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, unless congress passes the third stimulus bill and gets the President’s signature by the end of the week.

If the bill passes, it would extend the weekly $300 in FPUC for unemployed Americans, and send $1,400 stimulus payments to many Americans. All part of the third stimulus bill Congress has voted on since the start of the pandemic.

It was around this time last year, that Americans had about a week of normalcy left before things started shutting down.

“I was a paralegal. I worked for a real estate investment company, mortgages and stuff like that, and I loved it,” said Gia Cuccaro, an unemployed Floridian.

Cuccaro lost her job on March 16, 2020, an uncertain economy lumping her in with millions of unemployed Floridians.

“I was one of the people they considered a forgotten March filer, where I didn’t get paid my first payment until July,” said Cuccaro.

Floridians currently get up to $275 a week in state unemployment. Federal aid then adds $300 to that, but that expires on Sunday. And the worry is, that even with the quick passage of the stimulus bill, benefits still may lapse.

“How quickly is it gonna be implemented, and is there going to be a lapse in benefits? And the consensus is that something is going to go wrong, even if the bill is signed into law before the expiration date, where it’s going to delay the extension in the statewide system,” said Vanessa Brito, a community activist dedicating her time to helping unemployed Floridians navigate the DEO system.

Brito knows well that it wouldn’t be the first lapse.

“We’re well into March, and people are still waiting for that extension from late December, early January,” said Brito.

For now, the hope is that that backlog doesn’t get bigger, buying Floridians a little extra time to find employment.

“I made more money when I was working. I’m certainly not the person who wants to sit home, I’m pulling my hair out of my head,” said Cuccaro.

The House is scheduled to vote Tuesday to approve the changes the Senate made to the bill last week. From there, it heads to the President’s desk.