Washington County, Florida Unemployment Guide
Coronavirus Update! -- What Florida Residents Need to Know About Unemployment Benefits
As the coronavirus sweeps across the country, the unemployment rate is skyrocketing in every state. If you have lost your job in Florida, apply for unemployment benefits at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Learn about how unemployment claims relating to COVID-19 will be handled in Florida.
As of the end of July 2020, approximately 30 million people -- one in five workers -- were collecting unemployment. This figure includes the millions of employees who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and the steps state and local governments have taken to contain it, from orders shutting down nonessential businesses to shelter-in-place restrictions, school closures, and more. It also includes millions of gig workers, contractors, and self-employed people who are collecting unemployment benefits through the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
If You Are Still Employed: You may be eligible for emergency paid sick leave or paid family leave under a new federal law, the Families First Coronavirus Act. Some states also provide paid time off that may be available to you. See Am I Entitled to Paid Sick Leave, Family Leave, or Vacation Time in Florida to learn more about these programs.
Federal and state governments are rapidly making changes to their unemployment programs, to ensure that more people who are out of work receive benefits more quickly.
Federal CARES Act Expands Benefits to Workers in Florida
Congress has passed a $2 trillion stimulus package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security ("CARES") Act, which greatly expands the nation's unemployment compensation program. Employees eligible for unemployment in Florida were receiving an additional $600 per week of federally-funded benefits, on top of what Florida already pays. However, these additional benefits expired at the end of July 2020, and Congress is still arguing about whether and how to extend the program. (In August, President Trump signed an executive memorandum to redirect disaster relief money from FEMA to pay for an additional $300 or $400 per week in benefits; learn more about this lost wages assistance program.) And, unemployed individuals who run out of state-funded benefits will receive an additional 13 weeks of benefits, available through December 31, 2020.
Under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance part of the CARES Act, self-employed workers (including gig workers and independent contractors), part-time workers, workers who have already used up their unemployment benefits under state law, and those with limited work histories are entitled to unemployment insurance benefits in Florida. The new program also covers those who are out of work for reasons relating to COVID-19 but would not otherwise be eligible for benefits. Benefits under this federal program are available for 39 weeks total. (Learn more about this program in our Pandemic Unemployment Assistance article.) Individuals eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance under this new program were also receiving the additional $600 per week until the end of July 2020.
The CARES Act includes a number of other unemployment provisions, including financial incentives for work-sharing programs (which pay benefits to employees who are kept on the employer's payroll at reduced hours) and payment for the first week of unemployment, which in many states was an unpaid waiting period.
Information on Florida Unemployment Benefits and COVID-19
In addition to the changes mandated by the federal CARES Act, most states have made their unemployment programs more generous to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity has posted an FAQ on unemployment benefits and coronavirus. The Department has also changed its job search rules temporarily, so that employees will not have to show that they are searching for work in order to receive unemployment benefits from March 15 to September 5, 2020. In addition, the Department has temporarily waived the one-week waiting period that would otherwise apply before applicants may start receiving benefits. For updates and information, check out the Department's COVID-19 resource page. The Department also has an information page about the CARES Act.Because things are changing so quickly, the best place to find out the current rules in Florida is the website of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Especially if you are trying to file for benefits online, you’ll have to be persistent: Demand for information and online filing systems is so high that state websites are overwhelmed with traffic. In the meantime, all of us at Legal Consumer wish you and your loved ones good health and economic security through these difficult times.
What You Need to Know About Unemployment Benefits in Florida
This site provides clear, accurate information on collecting unemployment benefits in Florida, including:
- whether you are eligible for benefits
- how to apply for benefits
- how much you'll get (and how long your benefits will last)
- what you'll have to do to keep collecting benefits, and
- what to do if your application is denied.
Here are three things to keep in mind as you get started:
1. You may be eligible for benefits even if you quit, you were fired for cause, or you are still working part-time.
Some people mistakenly believe that unemployment is available only to employees who are laid off. However, you don't have to lose your job in a layoff to qualify for benefits. The key question is whether you are out of work without fault on your part. So, if you were forced to quit your job in lieu of being fired, or you were fired because you don't have the necessary skills for your job, you could still be eligible for benefits.
If you still have a job but your hours were cut significantly, you may be eligible for partial unemployment benefits. And remember, the CARES Act makes many more workers eligible for benefits during the coronavirus pandemic, including gig workers, freelancers, and more. (Learn about the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.)
2. Eligibility rules, benefit amounts, and duration differ from state to state.
Unemployment insurance works pretty much the same everywhere: Employers pay into a fund or purchase insurance, then former employees receive benefits when they lose their jobs. But the rules about who qualifies for unemployment, how long unemployment lasts, and especially how much you will receive in benefits vary a lot from state to state.
In March 2020, the federal government issued guidance to state unemployment agencies. This guidance encourages states to be flexible in administering their unemployment programs, so more employees who are out of work can collect benefits. As states take action to help unemployed workers, rules on eligibility, benefit amounts, duration of benefits, and more will change. The best place to look for up-to-date information is the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity website.
Our site covers every state and the District of Columbia; this page gives you information specific to Florida.
3. You can apply for benefits online at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
Before you file for unemployment, you may want to learn more by reading our articles on benefit amounts, who qualifies for benefits, and so on. Once you're ready to file, you can do it online. Although some states still offer the option to file by phone or even in person, the coronavirus outbreak has closed many government offices to the public – and there may not be staff available to pick up the phone.