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Proposed tax on out-of-state online sales may benefit businesses, but there's some push back

Posted at 5:12 PM, Mar 23, 2021

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — It’s no secret Florida’s unemployment system failed hundreds of thousands of people in 2020 and the ones that made it through and actually received benefits say it wasn’t enough.

“Being furloughed and just getting to 275 a week, like that’s nothing,” said Rhiana Ford, an employee at Fort Lauderdale Airport who collected unemployment last year.

Julia Cox, who was furloughed from Disney, says it took months for her to actually see any unemployment money coming in and that was after she says she called the Department of Economic Opportunity more than 4,000 times looking for answers.

“We have a house, we have a mortgage, we have $1400 For a mortgage per month,” she said.

In September of last year, ABC Action News told you the state stopped factoring in the cost of living in 1998, and from then until now, it’s increased by 63%.

RELATED: Cost of living hasn't been factored into Florida's unemployment system since 1998, expert says

“The average cost of groceries is around $400 for a family of three,” Cox said.

A bill going through House and Senate committees right now aims to tax Floridian’s on out-of-state internet purchases which could bring more than $1 billion in extra revenue. But, an amendment in the house version would exclusively use that money to keep unemployment premiums for businesses from going up.

“It’s the obscenity of this,” said Rich Templin, the Director of Politics and Public Policy for the Florida AFL-CIO. “Workers are going to be taking money out of their pockets, money is going to be taken out of their pockets to support a system that has an even remotely tried to keep up with their needs”

Templin says that money can partially be spent to help out small businesses but says it should also go to increasing the weekly benefit amount and the duration of weeks someone can claim.

“It’s obscene to think that working families are going to be paying the business premiums for Disney and Walmart,” Templin said.

But, some small businesses see the legislation differently.

Jeff Chernoff is the Vice President of IAT incorporated, a family-owned insurance and financial services business that’s been around since the 80s. He says in the first quarter of 2021 their insurance premiums shot up 1,100%.

“With the once in a 100-year pandemic people we’re hurting, businesses were hurting and so really what I applaud the sponsors of this bill, they came up with a creative solution,” he said. “It’s not a new tax they are going to be levying but it’s a matter of finally collecting the same tax brick and mortar businesses have been collecting.”

Read the Senate version here.