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Some Floridians may have not been getting full weekly PUA benefit amount owed to them

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Posted at 4:53 PM, Dec 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-04 17:22:37-05

$125 a week — that’s the minimum weekly benefit under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

“It’s really having a damaging impact, and the money is not even a lot of money to make ends meet, but at this point, people need that $125,” said State Representative Anna Eskamani, who represents District 47.

People who are facing eviction and can’t put food on the table — the stories in Florida have been endless and ABC Action News has been telling them since March. What’s worse is that some people may have been entitled to even more money each week based on their previous wages.

“There seems to be even consistency from the U.S. Department of Labor that states like Florida have not been analyzing the correct benefit amount for PUA,” said Eskamani.

The Florida DEO admitted that in an email, and wrote, “In an effort to get eligible Floridian’s paid as quickly as possible, the department opted to begin paying the minimum amount.”

This means now the DEO is playing catch up, “due to the high volume of requests, this is taking longer than normal,” a spokeswoman said in the same e-mail.

“That’s another backlog for DEO to address, is accurately qualifying people and updating that if needed,” Eskamani said.

According to the U.S Government Accountability Office, “the majority of states have been paying PUA claimants the minimum allowable benefit…” and that “states should pay the difference with the greatest promptness that is administratively feasible.”

The Florida DEO sent along guidelines on how they calculate the appropriate benefit payment along with claimant requirements. See the full statement below:

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) minimum weekly benefit amount is $125. The PUA weekly benefit amount is calculated using the same computations outlined in state law for Reemployment Assistance claims. The weekly benefit amount cannot exceed the state’s maximum weekly benefit amount and cannot be less than the minimum PUA weekly benefit amount. If the claimant has insufficient wages in the base period, no base period wages, and/or no earnings from self-employment, they will receive the PUA minimum weekly benefit amount.

To receive a weekly benefit amount that is higher than the minimum amount for PUA of $125 the claimant must have:

  • At least $3,400 in the base period. For PUA, the base period is the 2019 tax year.
  • Wages in two or more quarters during the base period; AND
  • A total base period earnings that equal at least 1.5 times the highest quarter wages in the base period.

To get the weekly benefit amount, the quarter with the highest wages is divided by 26. If a claimant does not meet the requirements listed above, then they will receive the minimum amount for PUA of $125. If the claimant doesn’t provide their 2019 tax return documents, then they will receive the PUA minimum weekly benefit amount of $125. The tax document provided also needs to show the claimant’s net income if they’re self-employed.

In an effort to get eligible Floridians paid as quickly as possible, the Department opted to begin paying the minimum amount. Claimants who believe they are eligible for more than $125, should request a monetary reconsideration. The guide on How to Request a Monetary Reconsideration can be found here: http://www.floridajobs.org/docs/default-source/reemployment-assistance-center/to-apply-for-monetary-reconsideration.pdf [floridajobs.org]. Any claimant who has already submitted a request for monetary reconsideration does not need to do anything further. Due to the high volume of requests, this is taking longer than normal. However, even if a claimant has gone back to work, if their request for monetary reconsideration is approved they will still receive the benefits they are owed.