Surprised by Florida’s DEO Shortfalls? You Shouldn’t Be!

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5 mins read
Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

Florida has been under Republican leadership for 2 decades and Republicans are intrinsically opposed to government programs designed to assist those who are in need of public assistance. They label these programs as “hand-outs”, “redistribution of wealth”, and “socialism”. Florida’s current unemployment insurance system was designed to offer as little as possible to as few as possible. And, the program so many Floridians are relying on now, is unfortunately the embodiment of those ‘every man for himself’ Republican philosophies.

Florida’s Unemployment Compensation system is one of the least beneficial benefits programs in the nation. Currently, Florida’s assistance max’s out at $275 per week (an additional $600 per week is currently being provided to those affected by the COVID unemployment crisis through the Federal stimulus), the 5th lowest benefit in the nation and that runs out after only 12 weeks, the shortest duration period among the 50 states. FileUnemployment.org rates Florida’s Department of Employment Opportunity program at the top of their ‘Worst Unemployment Benefits’ list.

In a Sun Sentinel article from our last unemployment crisis in 2008 titled ‘Could you live on $275 a week?’  they stated that at that time, it had been 10 years since the last benefit increase and explained that “Florida’s unemployment system has operated under the philosophy that it’s better to get people re-employed than keep paying them unemployment compensation.” There it is. That Republican intrinsic opposition to government assisting its citizens. Even when there were no jobs to be had, Republicans felt Floridians would game the system just to sit at home and receive a whopping $275 per week.  And, as Bruce Nissen, director of the Center for Labor Research at Florida International University said at the time, “Florida treats workers badly on lots of fronts… We don’t have a worker-friendly government.” And now, more than a decade later, nothing has improved, some things have gotten worse.

In 2011, when Rick Scott rode the Tea Party wave into the Governorship, he brought their anti-government and self-sufficiency philosophies to Tallahassee slashing the previous 26 week unemployment benefit period to the current 12 weeks.  As the Intelligencer explains, Scott made it harder for Floridians to file for the benefits and easier for them to be denied.

And they depict the Republican positions as a “vivid demonstration of the Florida GOP’s malign indifference to the well-being of working people.”

In 2013, Scott rolled out a new online platform for the DEO at a cost of $77 million. Republicans who have spoken with reporters from Politico say, “It was about making it harder for people to get benefits or keep benefits so that the unemployment numbers were low to give the governor something to brag about.” The recently unemployed Floridians, due to the COVID-19 crisis, are dealing with this system now.

But Sen. Scott does not deserve all of the blame for the current mess. Tallahassee has known ever since the platform’s launch that there were fundamental flaws in the system. In fact, last year, state auditors warned Gov. DeSantis that the state website was still suffering from problems that had been ignored since 2015. As state Rep. Anna Eskamani, (D-Orlando) recently told the Tampa Bay Times, “The Republican Party of Florida and Republican leadership who crafted this website deserve all the shame right now and should be held responsible for fixing it immediately.” Republicans should be ashamed, but their not. Their concerns only go as far as the next election.

Republicans have long opposed social progress, denied science, been anti-social programs and safety nets. They opposed Social Security, Medicare, the Civil Rights Act and Environmental protections; anything that involves government improving the lives of the citizens. When Republicans are in the majority, don’t be surprised when they act like Republicans.

As Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”


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