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Judge rules for DeSantis on unemployment benefits

Reporter: Sara Girard
Published: Updated:

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis didn’t violate the law when he stopped taking federal money to provide additional unemployment benefits, a judge has ruled.

A group of unemployed Floridians sued DeSantis over his decision to stop using $300 a week in federal COVID-19 relief money to supplement the state’s unemployment benefits.

Those unemployed individuals that were simply looking to restore benefits have hit a roadblock. The extra benefit for Floridians ended June 26, ahead of the Sept. 6 expiration set by the federal government.

But Circuit Judge J. Layne Smith said in Monday’s decision the state wasn’t required to use the money. He also questioned how the benefits would be applied retroactively.

Judge Smith also denied a request to restore the Federal Unemployment Compensation Program (FPUC). While Smith expressed empathy for the unemployed, he said his ruling was based on law.

“I sincerely hope they find employment and that their life circumstances improve quickly,” Smith wrote.

That weekly $300 was a lifeline for many that they say, now that it’s been lost, has caused them significant harm. Advocates filed the lawsuit immediately after the benefits were taken away since other states saw their unemployment benefits reinstated after similar lawsuits.

In response to Monday’s ruling, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity said Judge Smith basically proved that Governor DeSantis initially made the right decision to end federal benefits. The DEO cites the state’s job growth as the reason the right decision was made.

The plaintiffs in this case say they are already working on an appeal. They believe this will give them a better opportunity for success.

The DEO said in a statement:

“The court ruling issued affirms that the State of Florida’s successful Return to Work Initiative and subsequent withdrawing participation from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program was the right decision legally and has proven to increase employment and workforce participation.

Governor DeSantis has always been a champion for working Floridians and Florida’s business community. Because of Governor DeSantis’ leadership, the economic facts have proven that the state continues to outpace the rest of the nation in economic recovery. Florida’s unemployment rate is currently at 5.1% and continues to fall below the national average for 12 consecutive months, currently at 5.4%. Florida has experienced 15 consecutive months of job growth and has gained 964,400 jobs since April 2020.”