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Florida labor unions, furloughed workers call on DeSantis to fix unemployment system

Florida Unemployment

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — State labor unions are demanding Florida Governor Ron DeSantis make changes to the states failing unemployment system.

More than 11,000 Floridians have signed a petition demanding the governor makes changes to help the unemployed receive benefits, and they plan to send it to him Thursday.

The Florida AFL-CIO, worker advocates, as well as unemployed workers will hold a news conference at 1:30 p.m. to send a message to Governor DeSantis.

“You’re put out of work unexpectedly, you’re going to need money unexpectedly. It’s been a huge impact on our daily lives as I’m the sole provider of our household,” said Dakota Ellison, who is now unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ellison said it took long hours and several days to get logged into the unemployment system. Once he was finally able to submit an application, he said it took weeks to receive any kind of benefits. “We can’t pay our utilities, or car insurance, lease payment, we’re struggling to even get groceries.”

Dr. Rich Templin, Director of Politics and Public Policy for the Florida AFL-CIO, tells 8 On Your Side the issue goes beyond people not being able to log into the system to apply for benefits.

Dr. Templin said that despite billions sitting in the account, nearly 40% of applicants are denied benefits.

“We have 4 billion dollars in that account for unemployment insurance benefits and the way Florida law is written right now, those benefits can’t get into the pockets of people who need it,” said Dr. Templin.

Union members are calling on DeSantis to make changes including adjusting who’s eligible, the process of qualifying, and more than doubling the number of weeks people can collect benefits from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.

“Florida is currently only at 12 weeks, when most states are at 26 weeks,” said Dr. Templin. “Of course, the federal government has added additional weeks on top of that, but we believe that our weeks and the unemployment rate should be decoupled, and folks should get the maximum of 26 weeks like many other states.”

8 On Your Side reached out to the governor’s office but has not yet heard back.

To sign the petition click here.

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