New unemployment numbers are due out tomorrow and right now Florida’s unemployment rate is well above the national average at 6.6 percent. The state has already paid a billion dollars in unemployment benefits and the unemployed are worried about the state’s ability to continue to pay claims.
Clayton Watts was laid off from his construction job last month. He’s waiting on an unemployment check he says the state promised to send a week ago.
“They’re going to turn my electricity off. My rent is due. I’m out of gas. It’s hard to find any work. It’s tough.”
Clayton’s not alone. Florida’s unemployment rate is well above the national average.
The Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation has paid about a million unemployment claims since January. The agency’s director Monesia Brown says her office has been working overtime to keep up with the need.
“We’ve seen almost a 150 percent increase in claims this over last year at the same time. We’ve paid out over a billion dollars in benefits this year, so we know that we are definitely paying out claims and there are people who need it.”
Despite the huge payout, Brown says the state’s unemployment insurance fund is still healthy with more 1.6 billion dollars available. But getting the money to people who qualify is still an obstacle.
“I’ve been trying to call them, but I can’t get through to nobody.”
The state’s unemployment hotline hired 200 extra employees and added 70 phone lines, but that hasn’t been enough to keep up with the demand.
The state’s Unemployment Insurance Fund is financed though the unemployment taxes on businesses.