- Ten Florida residents sued the state for stopping federal unemployment benefits early.
- They claim the state, and Gov. Ron DeSantis, ended benefits for “political purposes.”
- Florida is among 26 states ending federal unemployment programs early.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Ten Florida residents have sued Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis for ending the $US300 ($AU406) supplemental unemployment benefits more than two months early.
The plaintiffs demanded that DeSantis reinstate the benefits, which he stopped in June, and send retroactive payments for the benefits they missed. Without the benefits, they couldn’t afford housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and childcare, they said.
The lawsuit, filed Sunday in Broward County, Florida, also named the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) and its director Dane Eagle as defendants. They filed the lawsuit “on behalf of themselves and all unemployed Floridians.”
So far, 26 states – almost all with GOP governors – have said they’re ending at least one of three pandemic unemployment insurance programs early.
The programs were introduced through the CARES Act in March 2020 and are set to expire on September 5. Some lawmakers and business owners have blamed the benefits for the current labor shortage, but JPMorgan said earlier this month there was “little sign” that ending unemployment benefits early had pushed people back to work.
The lawsuit said that the defendants “have taken actions against these Broward County residents to deprive them of real and personal property rights” by cutting off access to Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) early.
DeSantis, Eagle, and the DEO announced in May that Florida would end its participation in the FPUC program from June 26. The lawsuit claimed that this was “for purely partisan and political purposes.”
“Each of the plaintiffs have suffered economic hardships because of COVID, have had difficulty finding work and now, with the discontinuation of the FPUC, face even more pressing financial hardships,” Sunday’s lawsuit said.
It added that the plaintiffs “have suffered and will continue to suffer substantial and irreparable harms” and couldn’t afford basic living expenses.
Florida’s unemployment compensation program pays a maximum of $US275 ($AU373) per week for 12 weeks. This makes it one of the shortest and lowest-paying unemployment compensation programs in the country, the lawsuit claims.
“Defendants have a clear statutory duty to secure for Floridians all available federal unemployment benefits including those under FPUC,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit sought a mandatory injunction to make the state take all federal unemployment insurance benefits available from the US Department of Labor, and to prevent Florida from refusing any in the future.
The DEO told Insider that it would contest the alleged violation of law. It said that it withdrew from these benefits because of “positive, record-breaking economic factors,” such as its unemployment rate, which it said had remained below the national rate for the past 11 months.
Florida isn’t the first state facing legal action over its decision to end benefits early.
Indiana resumed paying pandemic unemployment benefits, including back payments, in mid-July after the state Court of Appeals denied its attempt to continue halting the benefit. Maryland was ordered to continue its federal unemployment supplemental payments, too.
The bipartisan Joint Economic Committee said in June that the states ending FPUC payments early could lose a collective $US12 ($AU16) billion because residents have less disposable income to spend. Texas alone would miss out on $US3.51 ($AU5) billion in less than four months, it said.