Order aimed at speeding up unemployment benefits

Jessie Morancy uses her computer to fill out an application for unemployment benefits after being laid off from her job at the Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport on March 27, 2020 in Hollywood, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Florida has lifted a requirement that people qualifying for unemployment benefits must wait a week before their first checks are sent.

With jobless claims surging as businesses have closed or scaled back because of the novel coronavirus, state Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson on Tuesday signed an order that temporarily waives the one-week waiting period before people can start to collect benefits.

Lawson noted in the order that “strict compliance” with the rule “would prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the emergency.”

The waiting period had been among several issues raised by Democrats and labor leaders, who have complained about the unemployment-compensation system.

“It's great news for out-of-work Floridians and positions us to bring more funding to Florida via CARES Act,” tweeted Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, referring to a new federal stimulus law that adds to unemployment benefits.

Democrats and labor leaders also have requested changes such as an expansion of the number of weeks benefits are available from 12; considering workers’ most-recent quarter of earnings when calculating potential benefits as a way to help seasonal workers; and changing eligibility requirements that currently include filling out an application that can take several hours.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has already waived a requirement related to people searching for work. Meanwhile, he has urged people to be patient as the unemployment-compensation is flooded with applications.

The state received 74,313 applications for unemployment compensation during the week that ended March 21. The following week, there were 222,054 applications.

On Sunday, the state received 21,137 applications. Florida offers some of the lowest unemployment-compensation benefits in the country, up to $275 a week for 12 weeks.

The federal stimulus law is slated to provide an additional $600 a week, for four months, to people who qualify for jobless benefits.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.