Monroe has the highest rate of employees asking for assistance in Florida

About 8.4% of Monroe County is unemployed. According to the state of Florida, there have been 3,936 claims filed by the 46,755 people employed in Monroe County. 

“But that percentage is based on the number of claims that have been received, not verified,” said a spokesperson. “Some of our constituents took multi-pronged approaches. For example, they applied online and also submitted a paper application.”

Typically, Monroe County has the lowest unemployment figures in the entire state — about 2.3%. Among the 67 counties in Florida, the stay-at-home order has hit the Keys the hardest with 8.4% filing for unemployment. Osceola County is in second place, with about 8.1% of its labor force also unemployed. Although Miami-Dade has the most number of initial claimants by county (67,000), it has a workforce of 1.3 million.

In the Keys, most unemployment applicants are in the accommodation or food services industry (1,587). The next highest industry category is “none given” (958). The next highest categories of unemployed in Monroe County were in retail or administration or transportation. Interestingly, 54 applicants who work in health care, or social assistance, also applied for unemployment benefits. The healthcare workers who have been unemployed in the Keys may mirror what is happening nationally: as non-essential healthcare services are delayed until the pandemic is over, many of those workers are being laid off.

On April 21, the state had only paid benefits to 6.3% of its 1.7 million applicants. As of April 27,  that number is up to 25% of its 1.9 million applicants. The state is working through its backlog with the help of extra funding, more call centers and better hardware, but it may take up to four weeks or more before some applicants get a check.

On Wednesday, the state announced that anyone who lost their job since March 9 will receive retroactive payments, regardless of when their application was successfully submitted. Whether that means extra money up front, or extra weeks of benefits tacked on to the claim is still unknown.

The state has also said it has a way for independent contractors — gig workers or self-employed persons — to apply for federal CARES Act benefits (up to $600 a week) through the state portal. 

Raschein’s office said employees who are furloughed — for example, working a four-day week instead of a five-day week — and making more than $275 per week are ineligible for state or federal unemployment. The spokesperson said it was one of the pre-pandemic unemployment restrictions that has yet to be lifted.

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