Am I Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in Florida?
To qualify for unemployment benefits in Florida, you must meet two basic requirements:
- you must have earned at least a minimum amount (and/or worked a certain amount of time) before you lost your job, and
- you must be out of work through no fault of your own.
If you meet these two qualifications when you apply, you will likely be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. (To keep receiving benefits after you are found eligible, you will also have to meet your state’s job search requirements; to learn more, see What Do I Have to Do to Keep Receiving Unemployment Benefits in Florida?)
Gig workers, freelancers, and contractors are no longer eligible for benefits. In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, Congress greatly expanded eligibility for unemployment. Among other things, these programs provided benefits to gig workers and other contract workers who are not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits. However, these programs expired in every state on September 6, 2021; about half the states cut off these benefits even earlier.
Current Minimum and Maximum Benefit Amounts in Florida
In Florida, the minimum benefit is $32 per week, and the maximum benefit is $275 per week.
Pandemic Unemployment Benefits Have Expired
Although additional money -- $300 extra per week -- was available under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, that program expired on September 6, 2021. For weeks of unemployment starting on September 6 or later, these extra benefits will no longer be paid.
A different federal program -- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance -- made benefits available temporarily to workers who were not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits, including freelancers, gig workers, and other contractors. That program also expired on September 6, 2021.
How Florida Determines Benefit Amounts
Each state determines how much it will pay in unemployment benefits. Generally, the weekly benefit amount is some fraction or percentage of your earnings in the base period or your highest paid quarter of the base period.
In Florida, your weekly benefit amount will be one twenty-sixth of your earnings during the highest paid quarter of the base period. To make sure these amounts are still current when you apply for benefits, contact the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
How Much Will I Collect in Unemployment Benefits in Florida?
In Florida, you can earn up to $275 per week in unemployment benefits under state law.
Although additional money ($300 extra per week) was available under the temporary Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, that program expired on September 6, 2021 (or earlier, in states that cut off these benefits before the program ended). For weeks of unemployment starting on September 6, you will not receive these additional benefits.
Every state has its own rules for calculating unemployment benefits. Typically, the amount you receive each week is based on your earnings when you were employed. After all, unemployment benefits are intended to replace some of the income you lost along with your job, and tide you over until you find new work.
Calculating Your Benefit Amount
Your weekly unemployment benefit amount depends on your earnings during the base period.
How Long Will My Unemployment Benefits Last in Florida?
In Florida, the duration of benefits depends on the state's unemployment rate when you apply. The maximum period for which you can receive benefits ranges from 12 to 23 weeks. A temporary federal program (the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program) allowed claimants to keep collecting benefits after their state benefits ran out. However, that program expired on September 6, 2021 (or earlier, in states that decided to cut these benefits off before the program ended).
In times of high unemployment, additional weeks of benefits may be available under a different federal program, the Extended Benefits program (see below).
Each state sets its own rules for how long unemployment benefits last. Until quite recently, virtually all states offered a maximum of 26 weeks of benefits. In the last five or six years, however, some states have changed their rules on duration of benefits (in most cases, to offer benefits for a shorter period of time).
What Do I Have to Do to Keep Receiving Unemployment Benefits in Florida?
After your application for unemployment insurance benefits is approved by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, you can start to actually collect your benefits. But you can’t just sit back and wait for the money to hit your bank account: You must meet certain continuing eligibility requirements to qualify for benefits every week. After your initial claim for unemployment benefits is approved in Florida, you will receive benefits only if you:
- are unemployed or underemployed (generally, earning no more than roughly what you receive in weekly benefits)
- are able and available to work
- are actively looking for work, and
- file to continue to receive benefits.
Can I Collect Unemployment Benefits in Florida If I Was Wrongfully Terminated?
In order to collect unemployment, you must meet two basic requirements. First, you must have earned at least a minimum amount, set by state law, in the time before you lost your job. Second, you must be out of work through no fault of your own. (For more information on each of these requirements, see Who is Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in Florida?)
If you lose your job in a layoff, reduction-in-force (RIF), or downsizing, you will be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. But what if you are fired? And, what if you are wrongfully terminated -- that is, fired for illegal reasons?
If You Were Fired
In some situations, you may still qualify for unemployment benefits in Florida even if you are fired from your job. For example, if you were fired because you were just a poor fit, you may still be eligible for benefits.
You may be disqualified from receiving benefits if you were discharged for misconduct. In Florida, misconduct includes, but is not limited to:
- chronic lateness or absences in violation of employer policy or following a written warning or reprimand
- carelessness or negligence to such a degree or frequency as to show culpability, intentional disregard of the employer's interests, or intentional disregard of the employee's obligations
- deliberate violation or disregard of reasonable standards of behavior (including theft or property damage)
- violation of a standard or regulation that could cause the employer to lose its licensing or certification, or
- violation of a company rule that is known to the employee, reasonable, legal, and consistently and fairly enforced.
Can I Appeal a Denial of Unemployment Benefits in Florida?
If the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity denies your claim for unemployment insurance benefits, you can challenge that decision by filing an appeal. If you win your appeal, you will be eligible for retroactive benefits, back to the date when your claim should have been granted. (To get retroactive benefits, you must keep filing weekly claims while your appeal is pending, as explained below.)
After you file your initial claim for unemployment benefits, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity will send you a written determination of your eligibility for benefits and, if it finds you eligible, how much you will receive each week. If the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity finds that you are not eligible for benefits, you can appeal that decision. And, if the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity finds you eligible to receive benefits, your former employer can appeal that decision.
Coronavirus Unemployment Benefits No Longer Available
During the COVID-19 pandemic, job losses skyrocketed, and the unemployment rate reached double digits. Congress responded by creating several temporary unemployment benefit programs. Many employees were eligible for unemployment because they lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and the steps state and local governments took to contain it. Millions more received temporary federal benefits under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program because they were still unemployed when their state benefits ran out. And, many gig workers, contractors, and self-employed people were temporarily eligible for unemployment benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
Expired Federal Pandemic Unemployment Programs
However, these federal programs ended on September 6, 2021. In some states, they ended even earlier: About half the states decided to stop participating in these programs before they expired.
Since September 6, 2021, these benefits have no longer been available. That means:
- Benefits are no longer available to the millions of gig workers, contractors, and freelancers who were receiving unemployment through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
- Benefits are no longer available through the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which offered additional benefits to those who were still unemployed when they used up their state benefits.
- Benefits have been reduced for those who were receiving Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, a program that offered $300 extra per week to those collecting unemployment.
All told, experts estimate that more than seven million people lost their benefits on Labor Day, 2021. More than two million more saw their benefits cut by $300 per week.
How Can I Find an Unemployment Lawyer in Florida?
There are several ways to find a good lawyer to help with your unemployment claim in Florida.
The best way to find a lawyer is always through a referral from someone you know. Ask family members, friends, and professional contacts whether they can recommend a good employment lawyer.
Lawyers specialize, so your friend’s divorce lawyer won’t be the right person to handle your unemployment case. However, lawyers also know other lawyers, so don’t hesitate to ask a recommended lawyer in a different field for an employment lawyer referral.
If you can’t find a lawyer through personal recommendations, here are a few other options.
A number of websites offer lawyer directories: lists of lawyers that specialize in a particular field. Keep in mind, though, that these lawyers likely have not been screened for their experience or expertise; it’s up to you to make sure that the attorney you talk to has the right qualifications for your case. Here are a few options:
Bar Association Directories
You can find lawyers that specialize in employment law through the Florida Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service. Although the lawyers listed are in good standing (that is, they haven’t been suspended or disbarred), they may not have been screened for experience, quality, or expertise. You will need to determine whether a particular attorney has the qualifications and experience required to handle your case.
Legal Aid Services
You may qualify for free legal help, if your income is low enough. Every state has legal aid offices that provide legal assistance to people who meet their income guidelines. Check with Florida Courts Legal Aid Information to learn more.
Many law schools have clinical programs that offer free legal help from law students who are learning the ropes, supervised by professors or practicing attorneys. Find a law school near you on this list from the American Bar Association, then select it to learn more about its legal clinics.
Nolo/Martindale Attorney Network
LegalConsumer.com is an affiliate of the Martindale/Nolo attorney network and can connect you with attorneys in your area who handle unemployment appeals.
Get a Free Evaluation of your Unemployment Claim by a Local Lawyer
Use the form below to connect with attorneys in the Nolo/Martindale Attorney network serving Florida and Miami-Dade County.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Get Unemployment Benefits in Florida?
If you have a straightforward unemployment claim, you will likely be able to file for unemployment benefits on your own, without any help from a lawyer. Your claim is relatively simple if you can easily meet the Florida earnings requirements to qualify for benefits, and you and your employer agree that you lost your job through no fault of your own (for example, because you were laid off or had to quit when your military spouse was transferred to another state).
But if your case is more complicated, it might make sense to consult with or hire an unemployment lawyer to represent you. An unemployment lawyer can help you if you are facing any of the situations described below. more...
Paying an Unemployment Lawyer in Florida
If you may be (or already have been) denied unemployment benefits in Florida, you may be wondering whether you need a lawyer -- and whether you can afford to hire a lawyer to help with your unemployment case. It all depends on your financial situation and how (and how much) the attorney charges. Although unemployment attorneys often charge by the hour, an unemployment attorney may be willing to offer you a contingency fee arrangement in some situations. This means the lawyer gets paid only if you win, out of the money you receive as a settlement or award.
Below, we explain some typical attorney fee arrangements in unemployment cases.
Your first step in choosing an attorney – and deciding whether it makes sense to fight your employer in an unemployment claim, appeal, or lawsuit – is an initial consultation. The initial consultation provides you and the attorney an opportunity to decide whether and how you will work together. more...
About Unemployment Benefits By Zip Code
Here at Legal Consumer, we want to help people find answers to everyday legal questions about important topics like bankruptcy, Obamacare, inheritance, and more.
Now, we’ve turned our attention to employment law. Because, while almost everyone has (or has had) a job, it can be surprisingly tough to get good, high-quality local information about workplace rights.
We'll be adding new topics over time, but we’ve started with unemployment benefits. If you’ve recently lost your job, unemployment benefits can be a real lifesaver. They replace some of your income, temporarily, while you look for a new job. But not everyone qualifies for benefits, and the amount and duration of benefits can vary a lot from state to state.