The black swan event that is COVID-19 has created a financial crisis that is unlike any other in world history. Over the last month, economies have come to a grinding, self-imposed halt in an attempt to stop the spread of Coronavirus. Now, the financial toll has begun to mount with millions of Americans suddenly jobless from their employer and unable to pay their bills.
If you count yourself amongst the growing number of unemployed workers that have had their hours cut or lost their job, it’s natural to be concerned about how you’ll make ends meet. To help rectify this situation, there have been recent amendments and expansions to unemployment benefits, and you may be eligible for a one-time COVID-19 stimulus check.
Interested in how to apply for unemployment in Florida and what the benefits are? Here’s what you need to know:
If you wish to apply for and collect unemployment benefits in Florida, there are eligibility requirements you must meet:
If you do qualify for this, the maximum benefit anyone can earn is a $275 weekly benefit plus the additional $600 per week COVID-19 assistance.
Practically every state will review your recent work history over the past year “base period” in order to grant eligibility status. In Florida, during the base period, you must have met the three criteria:
In the wake of COVID-19 this section has been amended with the CARES Act. Previously, it was limited to employees who’d been laid off or fired for reasons other than illegal actions. Under the new rules this section also now includes workers who:
Originally, unemployment insurance (UI) was created to be a stop-gap for workers who were unemployed, but on the hunt. To receive unemployment insurance benefits, a worker would have to demonstrate proof that they had been applying for a new job. However, since the labor market has severely contracted and many people simply can’t work even if they wanted to, these criteria have been temporarily lifted for the next year.
Because of the uptick in unemployment claims, it’s important to note that many Floridians have experienced trouble getting through to the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity. Both the online portal and the phone lines have been overflowing with requests, which has caused delays, errors, and frustrating experiences for many.
If you are applying, don’t let this discourage you. Here are the steps Floridians can take to apply for unemployment benefits:
In order to apply for unemployment compensation, Florida residents will need to have all of their relevant employment information close to hand. According to the State of Florida, this includes:
Some workers will be required to give further information:
There are four primary ways you can complete the Florida unemployment application.
Apply for Unemployment By Phone
If you are exempted from filing claims online (you lack access to the internet) you can receive an exemption and then call 1-800-681-8102. But even then, phone lines have been slow and had significant wait times. If possible, keep this method as a last resort.
Apply for Unemployment By Paper Application
You have the option to fill out a physical application by downloading it from this link. Once completed, you can mail it to:
Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
P.O. Box 5350
Tallahassee, FL 32314-5350
Apply for Unemployment Online
You can file for unemployment 24/7 on the traditional online portal. Simply follow this link, create a sign in, and fill out the required sections.
Apply for Unemployment By Mobile app
Because so many people have been struggling to file a claim, Florida created a mobile-friendly portal that’s meant specifically for unemployment applications. While the option is up to you, we suggest you apply through this if you want to avoid paper applications.
To receive your unemployment benefits, Florida residents will be required to first select a payment method. You have 3 primary options:
Once you’ve been accepted into the program, you’ll be required to fill out claims on a regular basis. So, although the job application requirement has been temporarily lifted, you’ll still be asked to file a weekly unemployment request in order to receive assistance. You can do that through the online portal, which will walk you through the steps.
Before Coronavirus reached American shores, the economy was moving at an all-time high. America had its lowest unemployment rate on record and was operating at nearly full employment, the stock market had reached new limits, and it appeared that further economic growth was expected. Then, COVID-19 spread and began to take lives.
In order to prevent the possibility of millions of lives lost, world leaders were forced to make a decision that had never been done before—they shut everything down. Naturally, the economic consequences of this were severe and felt immediately throughout the country. And this crash was unlike previous economic downturns. The New York Times writes:
“The abruptness of the descent — and the near-lockdown of major cities — is unheard-of in advanced economies, more akin to wartime privation than to the downturn that accompanied the financial crisis more than a decade ago, or even the Great Depression. ‘Even during previous recessions,’ noted Ellen Zentner, chief U.S. economist at Morgan Stanley, ‘no one’s been told you can’t go outside or you can’t gather.’”
Three weeks into the government-mandated shutdown, the unemployment numbers are rapidly increasing. According to the Guardian:
For Florida, the numbers are similarly grim. And that’s despite the fact that Governor Rick De Santis made the controversial decision to keep more businesses open than most other states. Per Local10 News, Florida’s unemployment claims tripled to 227,000 last week and added an additional 150,000+ this week. Until this shutdown comes to an end, these numbers are projected to continue to rise.
In response to the biggest financial crisis (bigger than 2009’s Great Recession)—and with the economy teetering on the brink of collapse—Republican and Democratic legislators came together to pass the largest relief package in world history. The $2.2 trillion stimulus package, known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, is the proverbial lifebuoy meant to save sinking businesses and individuals.
While this bill set out to accomplish several things, NOLO writes that in terms of unemployment, it created the following changes and expansions:
Like a tax refund, the stimulus check will be handled by the IRS. If you have already filed taxes electronically, this money will be transferred directly to your bank account so long as you meet the eligibility requirements. In order to receive the maximum allotted amount, you must make less than $75,000 per year, or $150,000 if you’re a couple filing jointly. In addition, you need to have filed for taxes in either 2018 or 2019. If you make more than those figures, Fox13 writes:
“The amount decreases for individuals who earn an adjusted gross income of more than $75,000 and couples who earn more than $150,000 a year at a rate of 5 percent of every dollar above those marks. This means the payment is less the higher their earnings are, with it being reduced to zero for individuals who make $99,000 or more and couples who make $198,000 or more.”
The IRS has reported that it is currently working on a web-based site you can use to enter your banking information, but that hasn’t yet been completed.
Even if you apply for unemployment today, you likely won’t receive your first payments for at least a month. So, what are you to do if you still have bills to pay and you haven’t yet received your stimulus check?
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Trading Economics. United States Unemployment Rate. https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/unemployment-rate
NYT. Coronavirus Recession Looms, Its Course ‘Unrecognizable’. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/21/business/economy/coronavirus-recession.html
The Guardian. US unemployment rises 6.6m in a week as coronavirus takes its toll. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/apr/09/us-unemployment-filings-coronavirus
Local10. Florida unemployment numbers triple, and state is struggling to handle the filings. https://www.local10.com/news/local/2020/04/02/floridia-unemployment-numbers-triple-as-layoffs-accelerate/
NOLO. Collecting Unemployment Benefits in Florida. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/collecting-unemployment-benefits-florida-32505.html
Fox13. Coronavirus stimulus checks on their way: Here's how it works. https://www.fox13news.com/news/coronavirus-stimulus-checks-on-their-way-heres-how-it-works