Unemployment During the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Crisis

This resource contains common questions about unemployment during the COVID-19 crisis for Tampa Bay area residents including Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Manatee, and Sarasota counties.

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Unemployment Insurance Changes under the new CARES Act COVID-19 Stimulus Extension

What will the agreement do?

The new law recently passed extends the amount of time that people can collect unemployment benefits by 11 weeks through March 14, 2021. It also restarts an extra federal benefit of $300 that will be added on top of the usual state benefit.

How do the benefit extensions work?

The extensions apply to people receiving regular Florida reemployment assistance benefits as well as individuals receiving checks through the so-called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which ran out on December 26, 2020. P.U.A. covers the self-employed, gig workers, part-timers, and others who are typically ineligible for regular unemployment benefits.

Florida benefits generally last for 26 weeks. After that, the CARES Act had extended benefits by 13 weeks. The new law adds 11 more weeks, bringing the total extension to 24 weeks—for anyone receiving either regular Florida reemployment assistance benefits or pandemic unemployment assistance. This federal extension ends March 14, 2021, unless you haven’t already reached your benefit maximum. In that case, the benefits would continue to April 5, 2021.

What about the extra $300?

Everyone who qualifies for Florida reemployment assistance will also get an additional weekly payment of $300. The previous additional amount that ended was $600 per week. The so-called Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefit will be paid for 11 weeks, for weeks of unemployment beginning after December 26, 2020, and ending on or before March 14, 2021.

What are the GENERAL eligibility requirements for Florida Reemployment Assistance (RA) benefits?

  • Totally or partly unemployed.
  • Have lost your job through no fault of your own. You cannot quit for personal reasons or been fired for misconduct.
  • Able to work, available for work, and actively seeking work.
  • Minimum amount of wages earned in the first 12 months of the past 15 months from when you file your claim for benefits. (This is called "monetary eligibility").
  • This determination does NOT take into account specific COVID-19 related reasons for not working.
  • You MUST apply for general RA benefits and get a denial before you can apply for special COVID-19 benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.

How do I apply for RA benefits?

  • Fill out an online application at: FloridaJobs.org/RAApplication. For help with the online application: (800) 204-2418.
  • There is also a paper application available which you mail into Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, P.O. Box 5350, Tallahassee, FL, 32314. This option may take longer to process.
    • You can print it at home and follow the directions from covid19.floridajobs.org.
    • You can call a local FedEx Office, who can print the application and mail it for you free of charge.
    • In Hillsborough County, residents can go to Jan Platt Regional Library (3910 S. Manhattan Ave.) or Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library (2902 W. Bearss Ave) to pick up, complete, and return applications in their drive-thru locations for free mailing. The drive-thru is open Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • NOTE: CareerSourceFlorida.com lists locations where you can get help filling out your paper or online application.

What info do I need to apply?

  • Social Security Number
  • Driver’s License or State ID number
  • Amount made and employment information for each employer you had in last 18 months (address, phone, start and stop day of work)
  • Employer ID # (found on W2 or 1099) if possible

I already applied for RA benefits but have NOT gotten a decision or got an "ineligible decision." What do I do?

  • IF you applied BEFORE April 4, 2020, and have NOT received a decision or got an "ineligible" decision for any other reasons such as "monetary ineligible."
    • THEN you need to complete ANOTHER application for state RA benefits.
  • IF you applied AFTER April 4, 2020, then you will be evaluated for eligibility for an RA application first.
    • THEN if denied, see FAQ below "My application for RA benefits was DENIED? What do I do?"

My application for RA benefits was APPROVED. What additional benefits are available if I am approved for a general RA claim?

  • If you are approved for your general RA claim, the maximum state benefit is $275 weekly. The amount can be less than $275 weekly depending on your earnings.
  • However, under a Federal program under the CARES Act, you may also be eligible for an additional $600 weekly through July 31, 2020, and up to an additional 13 weeks of benefits.

My application for RA benefits was DENIED. What do I do?

  • If losing or leaving your job WAS NOT RELATED to COVID-19 and you disagree with the decision, you have a legal right to file an appeal within 20 days of the decision. You will then get a telephone hearing to challenge the decision.
  • If losing or leaving your job WAS RELATED to COVID-19, you should likely NOT file an appeal. Instead you should check your online RA account called CONNECT on a regular basis until you see a link in the upper left corner saying "Apply for PUA benefits."
  • Go to www.floridajobs.org/cares-act and click on the links entitled "Applying for PUA," "PUA Claimants Guide," and "Watch PUA Video Tutorial" for more detailed information.

What is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits?

  • The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program provides unemployment benefits to those that may not otherwise be eligible under Florida's state Reemployment Assistance (RA) program.
  • You can get benefits if: you are laid off or your hours are cut or you are unable or unavailable to work because of COVID-19.
  • You can get benefits even if self-employed, an independent contractor, freelancer, part-time worker or don’t have a work history long enough to usually qualify.
  • You can get benefits if you left your job due to COVID-19. On the application you will need to explain why you are no longer at your work and how it is related to COVID-19. Here are some options you can choose: (1) Diagnosed with or have symptoms of COVID-19; (2) Household member has COVID-19; (3) Caring for person with COVID-19; (4) Caring for child who is out of school due to COVID-19; (5) Advised to self-quarantine by doctor; (6) Was scheduled to start job but do not have job and cannot contact employer due to COVID-19 outbreak; (7) Become breadwinner for a household because head of household has died as result of COVID-19; (8) Had to quit job as direct result of COVID-19; (9) Employer is closed as direct result of COVID-19.
  • Go to www.floridajobs.org/cares-act and click on the links entitled "Applying for PUA," "PUA Claimants Guide," and "Watch PUA Video Tutorial" for more detailed information.

Am I eligible for additional benefits when my regular RA claim normally would end?

  • The Federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program is provided through the federal CARES Act and administered by the Department of Economic Opportunity. This program provides up to 13 weeks of benefits to a claimant who has exhausted their Reemployment Assistance benefits or have a Reemployment Assistance claim that expired after July 1, 2019. Floridians will need to apply for PEUC benefits once the balance of their current claim is exhausted.
  • Through PEUC, Floridians may be eligible for up to $275, in addition to the $600 through Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) in weekly benefits. The additional $600 through FPUC applies only to weeks of unemployment beginning March 29, 2020, and ends with the week ending July 25, 2020.
  • Unemployed Floridians who have exhausted their state Reemployment benefits will be notified with the next steps for PEUC.

How much is the benefit under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program and how long do benefits last?

  • Under FPUC, eligible individuals will receive an additional $600 per week in addition to their weekly state Reemployment Assistance or other CARES Act program benefits.
  • This FPUC payment is 100% federally funded and is available for weeks of unemployment beginning March 29, 2020, and ends the week ending July 25, 2020.
  • FPUC is payable alongside the following programs: (1) Individuals who are collecting regular state Reemployment Assistance (RA) benefits; (2) Individuals receiving Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation(PEUC); (3) Individuals receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

I have not received any benefits. If I do will I get benefits back to the date I applied?

  • You should get benefits back to the date you originally applied if you properly claimed your weeks on your CONNECT account on the Reemployment Assistance website.

The website says my application is "active" and/or "pending." What should I do?

  • Though there may be a long wait, this generally means your application is under review and you need to wait for a decision.

Am I automatically eligible for benefits once I am approved?

  • NO. Claimants are scheduled to return to the CONNECT system every two weeks to request benefits. Completing this process submits your request for payment during your weeks of unemployment, even if your claim is pending for review. Beginning May 9, 2020, you will not receive a payment on your claim unless you have requested benefits.
  • You will be able to request your benefit payment for each week available. You will also be prompted to answer a series of questions for each applicable week.
  • Go to www.floridajobs.org/cares-act and click on the link entitled "Guide for Reemployment Assistance Claiming Weeks" for more information.

What do I need to certify when I am claiming weeks?

  • You need to certify that you are able and available for work and possibly to document work search efforts. You also need to report any work you did in a particular week and how much you earned.
  • If you earned MORE than $275 in any one week, you will not likely be eligible for any benefits that week including the extra $600 weekly federal benefit. If you earned LESS than $275 in a week, your state RA benefit will be reduced but you will still get the $600 weekly federal benefit.

Last updated: February 3, 2021