How to Apply For Florida Unemployment Benefits | Eligibility Requirements

Our detailed guide will help you learn how to file for unemployment benefits in Florida and understand Florida unemployment eligibility requirements.

According to Business Insider, 30 million Americans had filed for unemployment in the six weeks leading up to May 2020.

If you’re out of work because of COVID-19 or another circumstance that wasn’t your fault, you may qualify for Florida unemployment benefits. The program is called Reemployment Assistance, and it’s overseen by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The DEO encourages anyone who needs temporary help to apply for unemployment.

Unfortunately, the application process and ongoing requirements — such as those for job seeking — are not as straightforward as they were prior to COVID-19. You might hear or read conflicting information.

There are good reasons for that. The federal government has expanded unemployment benefits, and many states, including Florida, have temporarily waived certain rules to make it easier for people to get help.

That’s why it’s crucial to stay current with changes and carefully read all instructions and updates as you seek assistance online.

For now, here are the basics on how your state’s unemployment system works. There’s also good information about applying online using the new Florida unemployment application.

Florida Unemployment Benefits and the CARES Act

Soaring unemployment prompted Congress to pass the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, in March 2020. It has significant impact on unemployment benefits.

The federal government is funneling an additional $600 per week to people receiving state-provided benefits. The extra funds will continue through July 31, 2020.

Also, benefits are extended up to 13 weeks beyond what individual states provide.

CARES helps people whose jobs and incomes were directly affected in any of these ways by COVID-19:

  • They were laid off, furloughed or had their hours reduced solely because of the pandemic.
  • They were told to self-isolate or were put under quarantine.
  • They’re caring for a family member who has COVID-19.
  • They’re caring for at least one child whose school has closed.

Florida Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

Self-employed people, contractors and gig workers are not normally eligible for benefits. Now, however, they may qualify for Florida’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

There’s a two-part application process for PUA. If you think you might be eligible, you must first apply for ordinary Reemployment Assistance. You’ll be denied, but don’t panic; you’ll then be invited to file a PUA application.

You can find eligibility requirements, instructions and answers to common questions here.

Amount and Duration of Unemployment Benefits

Weekly benefit amounts are calculated based on prior earnings. The maximum is currently $275 per week. Remember that the federal government is kicking in an extra $600 per week for a limited time.

Normally, duration of benefits is based on Florida’s current unemployment rate. It ranges anywhere from 12 to 23 weeks. Under these special circumstances, benefits could last up to 39 weeks.

Florida Unemployment Eligibility Requirements

There are three fundamental requirements for collecting unemployment in Florida:

Your past earnings must meet minimum thresholds.

Florida considers your earnings during a base period to determine if you qualify. The base period is the first four of the five calendar quarters prior to your filing for benefits.

For people who filed in April 2020, for example, the base period was Jan. 1, 2019, through Dec. 31, 2019.

All three of these requirements must have been met during your base period:

  • You earned wages during at least two of the four quarters.
  • Your wages over the entire base period are at least 1.5 times the earnings in the highest quarter. If you earned $4,000 in your best quarter, say, earnings for all four quarters must total $6,000 or more:

             $4,000 × 1.5 = $6,000

  • You must have earned at least $3,400 over the entire base period.

You are out of work through no fault of your own.

You may be entitled to unemployment benefits if you were involuntary laid off, affected by company downsizing or furloughed. If you were furloughed, your boss might tell you that you can’t collect benefits. Apply anyway, because the DEO says you can if you meet certain requirements.

You might even be eligible if you were fired for poor job performance, for lack of necessary skills, or for just being a less-than-ideal fit for the position or the company.

Getting fired for misconduct, however, makes you ineligible for benefits.

If you voluntarily quit your job, you must have had a very good reason for doing so. Examples include long-term illness or a military transfer for your spouse.

You are able to work, available for work and actively looking for work.

You must be physically and mentally able to work. There can’t be any problem, such as lack of child care or transportation, that would prevent you from working.

Under Florida unemployment eligibility rules, you’re expected to keep looking for work while you collect benefits. You should keep a detailed record of your efforts; you’ll have to answer questions about your job search each time you request benefits.

If a job is offered, you’re expected to take it.

Preparing to Apply for Unemployment

Gather all the necessary documents and information before you start the application process:

  • Social Security number.
  • Driver’s license or state ID number.
  • The employer name on the pay stub, the address, and the phone number for each employer over the last 18 months.
  • The FEIN numbers found on your W-2 or 1099 forms if you have them.
  • Gross earnings (wages before taxes are deducted) for the last 18 months.
  • First and last day of work for each job.
  • Reason for separation at each job.

There are additional requirements for noncitizens, military employees, union members and federal government employees.

Accessing the Florida Unemployment Application Online

The DEO has recently made it much easier for Floridians to apply for unemployment. The application is now on a new website that is mobile-friendly and easier to navigate.

When you apply, you’ll be asked to create a personal ID number, or PIN. Write it down, and keep it in a safe place. You’ll need it to request your benefits.

If you don’t feel confident about applying on your own, employees at CareerSource locations around the state can help you complete and submit your online application free of charge.

Participating FedEx centers will download, print and mail a paper application for free if you prefer. Be aware, though, that mail-in applications take longer to process and are less secure.

Requesting Florida Unemployment Benefits

Depending on how you apply, you’ll receive an electronic or written determination on eligibility. If you qualify for assistance, you’ll be told the amount of your weekly benefits and the first date on which you can request them.

Request your benefits — or “claim your weeks” as it’s sometimes phrased — every two weeks using the CONNECT system on the Reemployment Assistance website.

You must do this within seven days of the start of each new two-week cycle. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on benefits for that time period.

State leaders have discussed temporarily relaxing some job search requirements, but don’t count on that. Have your job search records handy. Just follow the prompts on CONNECT, and truthfully answer all the questions.

Again, as you navigate the system in coming weeks, be watchful for updated rules or temporarily waived requirements. Things frequently change as COVID-19 raises new issues.


Frequently asked questions

What are unemployment benefits?

Unemployment benefits, also known as “unemployment insurance,” is a program run by state governments to help support citizens who have recently lost their jobs via temporary cash assistance. This comes in the form of a weekly check in the mail or direct deposit, based on the amount you were earning previously and how many people depend on you for financial support.

The money comes from taxes that businesses pay the state government each paycycle on behalf of their employees.

How do I know if I’m eligible for unemployment benefits?

You’ll need to check the eligibility requirements in your state, which can be found here.

Because of COVID-19, self-employed workers and gig workers are newly eligible for assistance, so pay close attention to any updated materials.

How long can I receive unemployment benefits?

After filing a claim, those who are eligible can receive assistance for usually up to 26-weeks, but this has increased an additional 13-weeks because of COVID-19.

Will unemployment benefits have to be paid back? Will I have to pay taxes on the money?

As long as you are following the rules of the program, which are specific to each state, the money will not have to be paid back. You will be required to pay a tax of 10% on the funding, which you can choose to have withheld from the check or to pay while filing your annual state/federal taxes at a later date.

Please note that it is illegal to file a claim for unemployment benefits if you do not meet the requirements. If caught, you face a penalty of even more than the amount received in assistance.

How do I apply for unemployment benefits?

Complete the quiz at the top of the page to be directed to your state's online benefit application.