As the COVID-19 crisis rumbles on, more and more Florida residents are finding themselves out of work or with their income severely reduced. For those affected, unemployment benefits can be a lifeline.
Am I Eligible For Unemployment Benefits?
- In order to be eligible to claim unemployment benefits in Florida, the state requires you to meet certain criteria. This includes:
- Your income has been reduced to $275 or less per week through no fault of your own.
- You are able to work and actively seeking employment.
- Your previous earnings meet the minimum requirements.
In assessing whether your previous income meets the minimum standard for unemployment, the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) will look at your total earnings over the base period (the first four of the last five complete quarters before you filed for unemployment). To qualify, you will need to have received income for a minimum of two quarters in the base period, and have earned a minimum of $3400 over all quarters. Additionally, the total amount earned over the base period must be at least 1.5 times what you earned during your highest-earning quarter.
- Due to the COVD-19 crisis, the state has dropped the work-search requirement in certain situations. If your reason for being unemployed falls into one of the following categories, you may still qualify for benefits even if you are neither able to work or actively seeking employment.
- You have COVID-19 or in quarantine after exposure to COVID-19 (you will be asked to supply a medical certificate to confirm the exposure).
- You are caring for someone who has COVID-19.
- You are caring for someone who is in quarantine after exposure to COVID-19.
- You have been furloughed without pay because of COVID-19.
- You are working reduced hours at your employer’s request because of COVID-19.
- Your ability to work has been affected by COVID-19 related school closures.
- You are self-employed, a freelancer, or a gig worker who has lost incomes because of COVID-19.
- How Do I Apply For Unemployment Benefits In Florida?
- All applications for unemployment benefits (referred to as Reemployment Assistance) must be made to the Department of Economic Opportunity.
Applications should be filed online using the CONNECT system. If this is the first claim you’ve ever made, you will need to select the “File a New Claim” link and then follow the prompts to create a profile and file your claim. If you have previously submitted a claim, log onto the portal using your Social Security number and PIN (if you’ve forgotten your PIN, simply select the “Forgot PIN” button to reset). If you are unable to access the online application, you can download a Florida Reemployment Assistance Application and mail to:
Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
P.O. Box 5350
Tallahassee, FL 32314-5350
Before you begin your application, it’s advisable to gather together the information and documents you’ll be asked to provide. As per the DEO guidelines, this includes:
- Your Social Security number.
- Your driver’s license or state ID number.
- Your employment history to cover the past 18 months. This should include the name, address, and phone number of each employer; your first and last working day with each employer; gross earnings during each period of employment; the reason for leaving each employer.
- FEIN (this should be on the W2 or 1099 tax forms you have received. If you don’t have this information, you can use employer details off of a recent pay stub instead).
- Alien registration number or other work authorization form if you do not have US citizenship.
- Form DD214, if you have served in the military during the past 18 months.
- Form SF-8 and your most recent paystub, if you were a federal employee during the past 18 months.
- Union name, hall number, and phone number, if you are a union member.
Once you’ve filed you claim, the DEO will review it for any potential issues. If further information is required, an adjudicator will contact you directly. Pending submission of all requested information in a timely manner, you will be informed of the DEO’s decision within 3 weeks.
Maintain your eligibility for unemployment benefits by following the below:
- Review your monetary determination.
- Review your Home page in CONNECT.
- Normally, you would also be expected to:
- Register for work through Employ Florida.
- Keep a record of your weekly job contracts.
- However, in light of the current COVID-19 situation, both requirements have been suspended until at least May 2, 2020.
- The biweekly “actively seeking work” reporting requirement has also been suspended until further notice.
How Much Will I Get?
If your application is successful, your weekly benefit amount will be calculated by dividing the highest-earning quarter of your base period by 26, up to a maximum of $275. In addition to your state entitlement, you will also be eligible to receive a flat weekly payment of $600 under the recently introduced CARES Act. The payment will be issued by the DEO separately to your usual benefits payment, retroactive to March 29.
When Will I Be Paid?
After filing your application, it may take between 3-4 weeks for you to start receiving payments. Payment will be made by either debit card or direct deposit to your chosen bank account. Providing your unemployment status remains unchanged, you may collect unemployment for a maximum of 12 weeks. However, under the provisions of the CARES act, this has been extended by a further 13 weeks, allowing you to claim up to a maximum of 25 weeks until the end of July.
Can I Appeal If My Application Is Denied?
If your application is denied, you have a right to appeal the decision with 20 days of the mailing date of your claim denial statement. Appeals can be made online through CONNECT or by sending a mailed Notice of Appeal to:
- Office of Appeals
- PO Box 5250
- Tallahassee, FL 32399
- Fax: 850-617-6504
Once your appeal has been received, the DEO will contact you directly with the next steps.