JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Covid-19 is still with us, but two programs for federal unemployment benefits to help people whose livelihoods were impacted by the pandemic expired Monday.
The programs include payments of up to $275 a week for gig workers, contract workers and the self-employed who lost work due to the coronavirus, along with extended benefits beyond when states’ unemployment benefits expired.
Florida and other states -- mostly with Republican governors -- ended $300 a week extra federal unemployment payments back in June. The programs that ended Labor Day were different. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity reported more than 200,000 people in the state were receiving those benefits as of last week.
Melinda Wyatt said she’s been out of work since May of 2020 and has patched together unemployment claims since then, including from the federal program that extends beyond states’ unemployment benefits.
“I ran out of my first benefits, and they issued out a second round,” Wyatt said.
That second round expired Monday.
“It just means I’m going to have to try to work something out, at least until I can do something as far as income coming in,” Wyatt said. “I have been looking for other work, but I also applied for disability because I also have other health issues.”
In July, Florida’s unemployment rate had dropped to 5.1% -- less than half of what it was 18 months ago.
Hospitality businesses have reported having trouble finding workers.
Geoff Luebkemann, senior vice president of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, said the state ending the $300 per week benefit at the beginning of the summer didn’t help much.
“A little bit of that flowed through to interviews, but how much of it flowed through to actual employment, which is kind of a head-scratcher,” Luebkemann said.
He said it’s not clear that the last of the extra federal payments ending Monday will have any effect on hiring.
A spokesperson with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity said Floridians who never applied for back pay under the federal program paying gig workers and the self-employed can still apply for benefits for the weeks they were eligible prior to Labor Day for 30 days.