At age 64, Lidia Carmona, was dependent on her job as a service coordinator at a clinic. Unfortunately, she was laid off when the clinic closed its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lidia is separated from her spouse and has no other financial support, so she filed for unemployment benefits. She was initially denied by an unemployment compensation claims adjudicator, and then by an appeals referee who found she did not qualify for these benefits because she had not contacted at least 5 prospective employers for each week she claimed. This was at the onset of the pandemic and Legal Services Attorney Daniel Rowinsky accepted her case knowing an unfavorable decision on appeal could have a devastating impact in most, if not all, unemployment compensation claims filed in the state pursuant to the vague emergency order issued by the Department of Economic Opportunity which waived the work search requirement.
Rowinsky filed an appeal with the Reemployment Assistance Appeals Commission (RAAC) and submitted a brief in support of Lidia’s case. RAAC agreed with Lidia in that the work search requirement waiver applied and she was not required to contact 5 prospective employers a week. As a result of the RAAC’s order, Lidia avoided an overpayment in the amount of $4,940.00 and received a lump sum payment in the amount of $7,239.00. These payments were a lifeline for Lidia at a time when she needed it the most.
In Florida, there have been some recent changes regarding Reemployment Assistance that could affect many who are currently in Lidia’s shoes:
-On May 29, 2021, the work search requirement waiver ended. As a result, claimants will need to contact at least 5 prospective employers per week and submit work searches for every week of benefits requested.
-Florida withdrew from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program that provided weekly supplements in the amount of $300.00 per week to eligible unemployed individuals. As such, as of June 26, 2021, these supplemental benefits ceased.
-Pandemic Unemployment Assistance(PUA), which provides up to 39 weeks of Reemployment benefits to individuals who are self-employed, independent contractors, certain non-profit employees, as well as those working part-time is available until September 6, 2021.
-Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides up to 13 weeks of benefits to individuals who have exhausted their Reemployment Assistance benefits is available until September 6, 2021.
If you or someone you know needs assistance with Reemployment Assistance Benefits, please visit https://www.legalservicesmiami.org/self-help or call 305-576-0080 to apply for services.