June 28, 2011
Late yesterday, Governor Rick Scott signed HB 7005 into law reforming Florida’s unemployment compensation system. AIF worked at the forefront of negotiations this year to oversee the passage of this meaningful reform that updates and revises the claims process of the unemployment system to guarantee that only people who truly qualify for benefits are receiving payments. Specifically, HB 7005 cuts back the maximum number of weeks a person can be on unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 23 weeks when the jobless rate is at 10.5 percent or higher. The bill also revises the tax calculation formula for 2012 to provide some minor savings to many employers across the state, based on each individual company’s experience with the system. This measure will mitigate the exponential tax increases that are forecasted for next year, but employers should still anticipate the 2012 minimum UC tax to be over $200 per employee.
AIF salutes Governor Scott, as well as the bill’s legislative sponsors Senator Nancy Detert (R-Venice) and Representative Doug Holder (R-Sarasota) for their leadership and commitment to Florida’s economy. By enacting these critical reforms, Florida will maintain a viable unemployment compensation system.
Some of the new law’s highlights relating to the benefits procedures are as follows:
- Ties a UC claimant closer to the workforce system by requiring a claimant to complete an initial skills review, at the time an application for benefits is undertaken; which results are reported to the workforce system;
- Matches up state law with federal law changes to allow for federally-funded extended benefits to be drawn down to the unemployed;
- Reduces the number of available benefit weeks, and ties the number of available benefit weeks to the unemployment rate; the higher the unemployment rate, the greater the number of available benefit weeks and vice-versa;
- Revises how employee misconduct is determined and defined by revising standards of statutory construction and review, and specifies certain forms of misconduct such as chronic absenteeism or tardiness;
- Expands when an employee is disqualified from benefits related to committing a crime connected with work so that the crime does not have to be punishable by imprisonment for it to be used for disqualification, and specifies that a claimant in prison is disqualified from benefits;
- Codifies certain agency rules related to the exclusion of evidence that is irrelevant or repetitious, and revises the admissibility of hearsay evidence to allow it to be used to establish a fact under certain circumstances; and
- Allows a claimant to file an appeal of a benefit determination made by the Unemployment Appeals Commission in the appellate court near the claimant.
View a complete copy of the bill.