Two legal groups have filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor over sweeping changes to the state's unemployment compensation program.
Florida Legal Services and the National Employment Law Project charged May 25 that the unemployed in Florida face more obstacles to getting jobless assistance than in any other state. The changes denied unemployment checks to thousands of eligible Floridians, the complaint says.
"Florida's revised procedures make it just about as difficult as possible for unemployed workers to access unemployment insurance now," Valory Greenfield, of Florida Legal Services told the Palm Beach Post last week.
"The effect is that the state is blocking workers from accessing help they are qualified for and twisting the knife in the state's ailing economy."
The Florida Legislature Office of Economic and Demographic Research released its latest economic overview for the state June 6. The full report is available at http://edr.state.fl.us.
The report says that as much as 75 percent of the state's 1.2 percent drop in unemployment since December is attributed to Floridians leaving the workforce. They could have abandoned their job search, returned to school, left the state or retired.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity's changes include a 45-question online exam and elimination of filing claims by telephone, the method most used in other states.
George Wentworth of the National Employment Law Project added that states receive federal grants to administer their unemployment insurance within certain standards.
"Florida's new procedures force workers who already satisfy the basic eligibility requirements to jump through additional hoops in the form of complex online transactions.
"Thousands of workers are being unfairly disqualified as a result. We are asking the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate and find that Florida's procedures are in violation of federal law," Wentworth said.