Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida/National News

75,000 Floridians Could Lose Unemployment Benefits Dec. 28

TALLAHASSEE, FL - A dark cloud is hanging over the heads of 75,000 Floridians this holiday season as they face the end of their emergency unemployment benefits on Dec. 28.

So far Congress hasn't voted to continue funding the benefits and it's not likely to happen since House members already are home for their holiday break.

Rich Templin, legislative and political director for the Florida AFL-CIO, says the emergency unemployment benefit - put in place in the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008 - still is needed for thousands.

"It really is set up as a lifeline," he stresses. "It's designed to keep people in their homes, to keep gas in the car so that they can look for work. This is to keep people alive until they can find employment."

The federal emergency benefits are intended too help people who still can't find a job after state benefits run out.

In the past year, Florida state lawmakers reduced weeks of state benefits and added criteria that make it difficult for Floridians to qualify.

Templin says currently only 20 percent of Floridians who apply for state unemployment are qualifying.

Florida pays a maximum of 23 weeks, with an average weekly benefit of $232 that's almost $80 less than the national average.

Templin says the fact that the state's unemployment rate has slightly decreased in recent months is misleading.

"What few understand is that the reason our unemployment rate has been decreasing over the last several months, it is not because we have created jobs and the unemployed are getting back to work," he points out. "It's because the unemployed have been out of work for so long they are dropping off the rolls."

Since 2008, 1.5 million people in Florida have received the federal emergency unemployment benefits.

If the benefits are extended when Congress resumes in January, an estimated 10,000 jobs would be saved, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

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