Florida Applies for Enhanced Federal Unemployment Benefits

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For John Kennedy, 2020 has been a year of hardship.

“It’s just been very stressful,” he said.

NBC 6 Responds first spoke with him in June, after he had returned to his job at a restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, where he was working reduced hours.

“We’re only scheduled three days a week, for a total of 23 to 25 hours a week,” he told us back then.

John said he qualified for $600 in enhanced federal unemployment benefits – a lifeline that came to an end last month for him and millions of other Americans.

“It has been very hard,” John told NBC 6 when asked about how he was making ends meet. “It’s just basing everything that you do on OK, what needs to be prioritized first, what needs to be paid first.”

On Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Florida will be applying for the Lost Wages Assistance Program, which would add $300 in enhanced federal unemployment benefits to those who are unemployed or partially unemployed because of the pandemic and who are currently receiving at least $100 in benefits every week.  FEMA is administering the program and told NBC 6 at least 32 states had been approved for the grant so far.

State Senator Jason Pizzo, who represents District 38, said it would likely be at least a week before those who qualify for the additional funds start to see the money.

“Which is really unfortunate because that’s going to put us past the end of the month when people are going to owe rent again,” Pizzo said.  “Remember you have thousands of my constituents who owe rent on the first without a moratorium extension, without this money in hand – and that’s really the issue. The governor took a long time to make this decision.”

John, meanwhile, said an organization stepped in to help him with his rent so he did not have to worry about that for now. He was glad the state decided to apply for the federal program.

“It’s made a big difference as far as knowing what I’ll be able to do, what I can and can’t handle as part of my responsibilities,” he said.

A FEMA spokesperson told NBC 6 no state applications have been denied.  The spokesperson explained that once a state’s application is approved, they will have to adjust their unemployment system to access the funds and accommodate the program’s requirements.

The Department of Economic Opportunity said in a news release that the “…guidance from FEMA and the U.S. Department of Labor indicates that states should be able to receive approximately three weeks’ worth of benefits upon approval, with additional weekly approval being granted on a weekly basis...” The DEO also said the benefits will be retroactive to August 1st.

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