Jobless Agency is Hiring
Florida’s unemployment rate is the highest in more than three decades, but at least someone is hiring.
The state’s Agency for Workforce Innovation needs more workers to process rising unemployment claims and plans to ask lawmakers next week for the OK to hire another 150 temporary employees in coming months.
AWI added 100 workers between the end of the legislative session and June 30, when Florida’s jobless claims doubled from a year earlier. The state’s 10.7 percent unemployment rate for July represents 987,000 Floridians out of work.
AWI is asking the Legislative Budget Commission to approve drawing another $19.3 million from the federal government to cover the cost of the new hires and other improvements to keep up with the jobless toll.
State analysts forecast that Florida’s unemployment rate will hit 11 percent and hover at that level well into next year. That’s put pressure on the state’s business-funded unemployment compensation trust fund, which is now being heavily subsidized by loans from the federal government.
AWI has borrowed $162 million from federal authorities to keep the comp fund afloat. Florida and 20 other states are turning to Washington to help cover benefits.
The loan from the U.S. Labor Department must be repaid, but is interest-free until January 2011. The trust fund was brimming with as much as $1.1 billion at the beginning of this year, but has fallen into a hole as the state’s jobless numbers climb.
Backed by business groups, lawmakers during the spring legislative session increased the tax rate on employers to replenish the steadily draining fund. But the Republican-controlled Legislature and business organizations beat back Democratic attempts to accept $444 million in federal stimulus dollars also available for unemployment compensation.
Opponents at the time said those federal dollars were tied to increasing benefits and easing qualifications on accessing unemployment compensation, moves that they warned would carry an enduring cost. An analysis earlier this by the investigative reporting site, ProPublica.com, found that only about one-third of those who are out-of-work in Florida qualify for unemployment benefits because of the state’s tough eligibility standards.