As unemployment swells in Florida, $600 weekly federal unemployment set to expire

In mid-March, businesses across Florida started closing their doors and furloughing employees. Now, many of those employees who lost their jobs have still not returned to work and their benefits are set to expire.

Florida only pays out 12 weeks of unemployment, the fewest in the nation. For many Florida workers, the 12 weeks will expire before their jobs return. And that’s not the only problem: Federal benefits from the CARES Act expire on July 31.

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“It could become a perfect storm,” says Dr. Brian Marks of the College of Business at the University of New Haven. “The reason for the $600 initially was to keep food on the table because of the absence of work, that was the reason. But as we reengage, the underlying rationale for the $600 starts dissipating, but that is predicated on the notion that we have an absence of work.”

In central Florida, the absence of work continues to outpace the state and the nation as a whole. Central Florida’s unemployment rate is up almost 6% since April, with the counties serving the theme parks still experiencing unemployment above 20%.

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There have also been calls for Gov. Ron DeSantis to extend the weeks for Florida’s $275 per week unemployment, but his office has said he cannot. The governor could also reconvene the Florida Legislature to extend the weeks, but he has not.

Congress has considered adding additional weeks to the $600 but so far has not amid concerns that continuing the extra $600 will dissuade people from reentering the workforce.

“The concern that people had with the $600 is that it is a disincentive for people to reengage in work, but if there is no work there because people are not returning to hospitality and leisure at the level that existed pre-COVID 19, then one could argue the State of Florida should extend its unemployment benefits beyond 12 weeks,” says Dr. Marks.

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