Fla. bill would cut unemployment benefits

March 11, 2011 at 6:00 PM
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla., March 11 (UPI) -- The Florida House voted to cut unemployment benefits, making them the most meager -- and some say punishing -- in the country.

In Thursday's 81-38 vote, the House approved a bill that will, if passed into law, cut six weeks of benefits down from a maximum of 26. But it would also infringe on a person's private life denying benefits for employee "misconduct" including that outside the workplace, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.

It would also force an unemployed worker to accept a job that pays at least minimum wage after 19 weeks on benefits, and cut off benefits to the jobless worker if s/he refuses to undergo a skills review.

"HB 7005 is the first step of many to create an infrastructure that encourages other companies to move to Florida," said bill sponsor state Rep. Doug Holder. "It sends a resounding message to the business (community) that Florida is the place to be and is quickly becoming the most business-friendly state in the country."

Democrats voted against the bill, with some making passionate pleas not to cut benefits at a time when unemployment is an ongoing 12 percent.

Rep. Daphne Campbell said the bill would create more homelessness in Florida.

"At this time, with an unemployment rate of nearly 12 percent, why would we want to make it harder for unemployed Floridians to survive?"

Rep. Perry Thurston said the bill was "mean-spirited" toward Florida's middle- and lower-class unemployed.

"Why are we punishing them? Why are we making it more difficult for them to feed their families?"

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