Business lobby pushes for overhaul of Florida unemployment

TALLAHASSEE — Senate President Mike Haridopolos on Wednesday downplayed claims by Florida business groups who contend jobless workers are gaming the unemployment compensation system to receive benefits.

“There might be a small few that are gaming it, and that’s what happens anytime you have a big government program,” said Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island. “But what I do know is this: One-out-of-eight Floridians aren’t working right now, and they want to work.”

A coalition of business organizations, including the state’s Retail Federation, Florida Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business and Associated Industries of Florida, is pushing an overhaul of the state’s unemployment compensation system, saying it currently favors those out-of-work.

The more than 1 million jobless Floridians represent a 12 percent unemployment rate that is among the nation’s highest. Employers, who are facing steep hikes in unemployment rates, want lawmakers to approve legislation generally making it tougher for those losing jobs to draw benefits.

Haridopolos, however, seemed skeptical. “If we find some folks who are gaming the system, we need to look at it,” he said. “But my heart goes out to them.”

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