Thousands of eligible out-of-work Floridians are still waiting for enhanced federal unemployment benefit payments Friday, more than a week after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the state was applying for the Lost Wages Assistance Program.
“There’s a lot of frustration as to why the state of Florida waited so long,” said State Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, who represents District 27.
Rodriguez said the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) has told state legislators those who qualify for the program would likely start to see the funds by the end of next week.
“States like Arizona and Texas applied almost immediately, got the three weeks and were able to deploy it and are already applying for additional weeks for FEMA to approve,” Rodriguez said. “We’re hoping the DEO can implement it quickly.”
In a news release Friday, the DEO said they were “…working diligently to implement the necessary technology changes to ensure eligible Floridians receive the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program benefits as quickly as possible.”
The LWA program provides an additional $300 weekly benefit for those who qualify. Funds for the program come from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund.
Rodriguez said FEMA had, so far, approved three weeks of benefits for Florida.
“The understanding that I have from DEO is that it will be a $900 lump sum, if somebody has had at least three weeks of state unemployment of at least $100, during the period from Aug. 1 to now,” Rodriguez said.
Those who receive less than $100 in unemployment benefits do not qualify for the additional assistance, something Rodriguez said needs to change.
“I and others have written to the governor this week, formally asking the governor to find sources of funding so that we could bring those folks up to a $100,” he said. “If somebody’s benefit level is theoretically $75, that individual doesn’t qualify…and that’s an absurd situation to be in.”
Rodriguez told NBC 6 he has not yet received a response to his letter.
It is unclear whether the state will be applying for additional weeks of federal aid and if there will be sufficient funds to cover additional weeks of benefits.
Rodriguez said experts estimated that five or six weeks would be available, if every state in the country applied for the grant program.
“The FEMA pot of money is limited,” Rodriguez said. “Most states have applied, so I don’t know exactly how many weeks remain, but FEMA has told everyone that they only guarantee the first three weeks. They’re not guaranteeing past that because these are disaster relief monies that need to be available for disaster relief.”
You can read more about the Lost Wages Assistance program here.