unemployment benefits

Will Floridians See COVID Federal Unemployment Benefits Again?

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A lawsuit looking to bring back a federal boost in weekly unemployment benefits is going before a judge this week.

The battle over Florida’s participation in the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program (FPUC) comes down to this: 

"The question we’re here on is, is Florida required to accept that or not," said Judge J. Layne Smith of the second Circuit Court of Florida as the hearing kicked off Wednesday morning.

Attorneys representing the group of Broward County residents who filed the lawsuit,  argued state law requires Florida to accept the federal funds.

The federal program is set to expire September 6 and provides a weekly 300-dollar federal boost to unemployment benefits.

An attorney representing the people who filed the lawsuit says she believes at least 150,000 Floridians could be impacted by this case.

"The state of Florida is going to be losing around $400 million dollars by denying these folks the FPUC benefits," Marie Mattox, attorney for the plaintiffs said.

Lawyers representing the state disagree.

"Neither federal law nor Florida law requires participation in the CARES Act programs, including FPUC," a state and DEO attorney said in the hearing. "The FPUC, neither of the two statutes that the plaintiffs have cited in their complaint and in their memorandum provides a state law entitlement to FPUC benefits."

The judge also heard from several people who say they’ve been impacted by the early loss of those benefits, including Lori Beth Ertel, who says she hasn’t been able to find a job despite applying for dozens of positions.

"I’m unable to pay my bills, I’ve had to borrow from my entire family, my mother, my brothers," Ertel testified.

The question over whether the payments would be retroactive if the judge ruled against the state also came up during the hearing and will be considering by the judge.

He said the earliest we could see a decision on this case is Friday and that he expects an appeal to be filed, regardless of the outcome.

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