Finally, Gov. DeSantis decides to apply for $300 federal supplement for the jobless

Jobless workers demonstrate outside the Dade County offices of GOP senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio and President Trump's Doral resort. Credit: South Florida AFL-CIO

After 32 states enrolled to provide a $300 federal weekly supplement for the jobless, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday decided to participate in the program.

The $300, provided from disaster relief funds through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), “should be able to” get about three weeks of benefits from the program, but may be available a little longer, DeSantis said in announcing his decision.

The $300 is not nearly as lucrative and lengthy as the $600 weekly benefits provided to jobless Americans for four months through the CARES Act approved by Congress. The $600 benefit expired along with the CARES programs at the end of July.

The new federal supplement was created by President Donald Trump by executive order on Aug. 8, after Congress failed to reach agreement on a new relief package. The supplement will be paid atop Florida’s regular state unemployment benefit, capped at $275 weekly, but only for workers already eligible for at least $100 a week in state unemployment benefits and only for workers who can prove they are jobless because of COVID-19.

The state’s regular unemployment benefit, at $275 a week for 12 weeks, is the lowest net benefit in the nation. That benefit is extended nationwide under federal law for 13 weeks.

Florida’s jobless rate in July, the latest available, was 11.3 percent, representing more than 1.1 million jobless workers.

DeSantis had been evaluating whether he should participate in the program and didn’t announce a decision until Wednesday, after more than half the states in the nation enrolled.

Jobless people in some states are already getting the $300 benefit.

It wasn’t clear why DeSantis didn’t make the move earlier, especially considering his tight relationship with Trump.

He hinted at a concern on Aug. 8, when he said his legal team would assess the legalities of the presidential executive order and what potential financial blowback it could have on Florida.

Analysts at the National Employment Law Project, the Century Foundation, the National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures also pointed to deficiencies, including forecasts that the new supplement will hold out for only several weeks and would require a new round of programming for state unemployment systems.

Governors of several states that signed up for the supplement said the short-term program is no proper substitute for substantial new legislation yet to be crafted by Congress.

Labor leaders around the nation are calling for renewal of the $600 weekly supplement. The Trump Administration opposes that level of support and instead initiated the short-term supplement of $300.

Arkansas and Maine joined the list of FEMA-approved participating states on Tuesday, bringing the announced total to 32.

The others are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Washington.

Most of the states applied for $300 per week, but a few signed up to top off the short-term benefit with $100 from their own coffers, creating a $400 benefit in all.