Two legal groups want the federal government to investigate Florida's treatment of jobless workers following reforms that made the Sunshine State's unemployment insurance program the stingiest in the nation.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a law last year that sharply reduces the duration of benefits and makes filing unemployment claims much more of a hassle. The law requires claims to be filed online, creates a lengthy test with math and reading questions and requires workers to keep detailed records of their job search efforts.
In a formal complaint filed with the U.S. Labor Department, the National Employment Law Project and Florida Legal Services claimed the law shortchanges people who should be eligible for benefits.
"Florida's revised procedures make it just about as difficult as possible for unemployed workers to access unemployment insurance now," said Florida Legal Services attorney Valory Greenfield in a statement. "The effect is that the state is blocking workers from accessing help they are qualified for and twisting the knife in the state’s ailing economy. Nowhere in the country is it this hard to get help when you lose a job."
Specifically, the complaint stated that the law reduced the share of unemployed Floridians receiving benefits to 15 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, lower than in any other state. Nationally, 27 percent of unemployed Americans received state unemployment benefits in 2011.