Florida Unemployment – Do you know your rights?
Florida’s economy and job market is steadily improving. In 2013, the state finished paying off a $3.5 billion loan it took to pay unemployment benefits when the state was on an economic downturn. While the state as a whole is on an upswing, 7.1% (as of May 2013) are still unemployed. This page contains all of the necessary information for collecting unemployment benefits in Florida which is also known as the Reemployment Assistance Program.
If you wish to file for unemployment in Florida, you must meet the following qualifications:
- Reason for unemployment: You must be unemployed through no fault of your own. For example, if you were laid off due to downsizing, your employer going out of business, company restructuring, or other circumstances beyond your control. However, if you are unemployed due to breaking company policy, quitting, or other circumstances within your control, you may be ineligible for the Florida Reemployment Assistance Program.
- Earnings: You must have worked and earned wages in at least two quarters of your base period (the last 4 quarters before applying for Florida unemployment). The amount of earnings during your base period must be a minimum of 1.5 times the wages of your highest earning quarter in your base period. So if your highest earning quarter was $3,000, your total earnings for the base period must be at least $4,500. Florida’s minimum income for an entire base period is $3,400.
- Ability to work: In order to receive unemployment benefits, you must be able to work and actively seek employment. If you are offered a position deemed suitable, you must accept it. You may be asked to provide proof that you have been searching and applying for work at any time.
What you need to apply
Before you apply for benefits, you will want to make sure you have all of the necessary information to complete the application. You will need the following pieces of information:
- State issued identification
- You social security number
- Names, addresses, and phone numbers for all of your employers in the past 18 months
- What dates you worked and total wages for every employer in the past 18 months
- Gross income (pre-tax income) for the first week you are claiming unemployment
- Alien registration number and the expiration date of your work permit (for non-U.S citizens)
- A DD-214 form if you were in the military within the last two years
- For federal employees, your SF-50 or SF9 form
- Checking account number and routing number to have direct deposit.
How to Apply
You can file for benefits through Florida’s online system Florida Unemployment Internet Direct Claims (FLUID). You cannot file for unemployment benefits in Florida at an office or over the phone. As of August 2011, the only way to file for unemployment in Florida is online. You should file your claim within one week of becoming unemployed. You can file your claims online:
- Monday-Saturday: 6:30AM-8:00PM
- Sunday: 6:30AM-6:00PM
The application process takes approximately 30-60 minutes to finish. Once you begin, you will have to complete the application within 72 hours or you will have to restart the entire process from the beginning. You will be given a PIN number when you begin so that you can return within the 72 hour window.
After you complete the application, a notification will be sent to you confirming that your claim has been submitted successfully. In addition to your confirmation, you will also be instructed to take the Initial Skills Review. The test is mandatory but has no effect on whether your claim is granted or denied. The Skills Review test is used to help match you to job openings from the One-Stop Career Center.
Once your claim has been accepted, you will receive your first payment in 3-4 weeks. No benefits are paid the first week you file you claim because it is a “waiting week”.
In the event that you don’t receive your confirmation notice after submitting the application, you can call the Claims Assistance Center at 1-800-204-2418.
The maximum amount you can receive in unemployment benefits is $275 a week and the minimum is $32 per week. The amount that you receive will vary depending on your Base period. Benefits are calculated by dividing your earnings from your highest grossing quarter in the base period by 26.
As of January 2012, the duration of your benefits is dependent upon Florida’s unemployment rate in the 3rd quarter of the previous year. The maximum length of time you can claim unemployment benefits is 26 weeks.
If the unemployment rate is 5% or lower, you can claim benefits for up to 12 weeks. For every .5% increase in the unemployment rate above 5%, a week is added to the duration of benefits. Florida calculates the unemployment rate once a year on the third Friday of November.
Payments can either be deposited directly into your checking account or into a state issued Debit card.
Unlike many other states, you only have to reapply for benefits every 2 weeks as opposed to once a week. You can certify through FLUID.
In order to keep receiving benefits, you have to actively be seeking employment.
Appealing a denied claim
If your claim has been denied, you have the opportunity to appeal within 20 days of receiving your determination letter. You can file your appeal online here. The appeals website is available:
- Monday-Saturday: 7:00AM-8:00PM
- Sunday: 9:00AM-5:00PM
Once you have filed the appeal, you will receive a confirmation number. If you did not get a confirmation number then your appeal did not go through and you will have to re-do it. You should print out a copy of the confirmation page for your records.
Resources and Contact Information
For questions regarding the application process or information about your claim, you can call Reemployment Assistance Hotline at 800-204-2418 Monday-Friday 8:00AM to 5:00PM.
Email Reemployment Assistance department: http://www.floridajobs.org/applications/uccontactus/
Appeals (clerk’s office): (850) 921-3511
Appeals Commission: (850) 487-2685
If you need to send any correspondences in the mail, you can send it to:
Department of Economic Opportunity
107 East Madison Street,
Tallahassee Florida 32399
If you do not have access to a computer to file your claim or need help with your application, you can contact your nearest One Stop Career Center. The directory is located here.