TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida lawmakers on a Senate committee approved a bill that would increase the maximum weekly unemployment benefit by $100 to $375.
Senate Bill 1906 ups the benefit, currently $275, that sits among one of the lowest weekly payouts in the U.S. Arizona, Louisiana and Mississippi offer lower.
State Sen. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, who introduced the bill, said in a news release that people working in the tourism industry in his Central Florida district were among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We have a moral obligation to provide enough support to help meet some basic needs for Floridians who are out of work, through no fault of their own, and are looking for employment," Brodeur said in a statement.
The bill still needs to make its way through the full House, Senate and receive Gov. Ron DeSantis' signature to become law.
Democrats have tried to increase the maximum weekly unemployment benefit, with one proposal going to $500, according to reporting by the USA Today Network's Florida Capital Bureau. Brodeur reportedly said $375 is about the national average.
"I don’t want average," said Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami. "I think Floridians deserve more than average."
Florida's broken CONNECT website made it difficult for people to apply for benefits at the height of the pandemic. Once people did receive the benefit -- sometimes even less than the $275 maximum -- it wasn't enough for some families.
"Us having four kids, it’s not easy at all—we have to push bills back and extend bills so we can play catch up now," Johanna Cabrera said in August 2020.
DeSantis now wants to use about $73 million of the federal stimulus money Florida is slated to receive to improve the CONNECT system, plus another $57 million to support operations to help the state's ability to handle an increased volume of unemployment claims.
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