Dems want special session to include unemployment benefitsby Dara Kam | July 20th, 2010
Two Palm Beach County lawmakers are pushing a measure to implement an expansion of unemployment compensation benefits Congress is expected to pass as early as today. The bill could bring about $270 million in unemployment benefits for about 200,000 long-term unemployed Floridians whose extended benefits dried up on June 5.
But there’s little chance GOP leaders will expand the special session on oil drilling that kicked off at noon and is already coming to a close in the House.
Gov. Charlie Crist called lawmakers into town to pass a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow voters to decide if offshore oil drilling in Florida should be banned.
The Senate wants to pass the measure but the House is expected to convene briefly and adjourn without even voting on it.
Congress appears to have settled its own impasse over unemployment benefits and is expected today to approve another expansion for the long-term unemployed.
But Floridians won’t be able to get the additional funds unless state lawmakers sign off.
Rep. Kevin Rader, D-Boynton Beach, filed a bill that would extend the state’s June 5 expiration date for the long-term unemployed benefits and wrote a letter yesterday asking Crist to expand the session.
More than 35,000 Floridians a week are losing out on the extended benefits, Rader said.
“These are families who need this money because of the economic crisis in our state,” said Rader, who failed to convince lawmakers to pass a similar measure during the regular session to avoid having to come back during a special session to extend the deadline for the benefits.
Jobless workers spend $1.70 for each $1 in unemployment fund they receive, according to some estimates.
“It’s outrageous we would not act so that Floridians get the funds that they are entitled to,” said Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, one of the bill’s co-sponsors. Gelber’s Democratic attorney general opponent, Sen. Dave Aronberg of Greenacres, is also backing the measure. “It’s money for people who need it the most and who will spend it immediately.”
Rader acknowledged it is highly unlikely the session will be expanded but that “I am always hopeful that common sense and reason will prevail.”