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Lawsuit seeks to restore unemployment benefits

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 4:27 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) - Florida is one of nine states that ended additional $300 unemployment payments more than two months early, on June 26, because thousands of jobs were going unfilled, but a lawsuit filed late Sunday seeks to restore the weekly stipend.

An estimated 150,000 Floridians lost $300 a week in additional federal unemployment payments at the end of June.

Now, a new lawsuit filed on behalf of 10 unemployed Floridians seeks to force the state to make the payments.

Gia Cuccero is one of the plaintiffs.

“There’s restaurant help and bartenders. I’ve never done anything like that in my life. I’m 52-years-old and I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Cuccero.

The American Cares Act funding runs through September 6, but in May the governor said it was keeping people from looking for work.

“We’ve got almost half a million job opening in the state of Florida,” said Governor Ron DeSantis.

“And what he did was throw out the baby with the bath water,” said Attorney Marie Mattox, who is representing the plaintiffs in the case.

Florida law reads, in part, the state must “secure…all advantages available under the provisions of federal law relating to reemployment assistance”

“No person is above the law and that certainly includes the governor or a governmental bureaucrat in charge of DEO,” said Gautier Kitchen, another attorney working on the case.

Nine of the 10 plaintiffs are women, in part because women have been hit harder by the loss of the extra cash.

“If you’d kept the benefits in place until September 6, it gives the opportunity for some of these mothers taking care of their kids to send their kids back to school full time,” said Attorney Scott Behren, also representing plaintiffs in the case.

For Cuccero, the future remains uncertain.

“If I get a job interview, I have to get to that interview. I don’t have money to get to that job interview,” said Cuccero.

By ending the payments early, the state is refusing an estimated $400 million that could have gone into the economy.

The plaintiffs want a judge to order the payments and make them retroactive.

We reached out to the Governor’s Press Office for a response, but so far haven’t heard back.

Copyright 2021 Capitol News Service. All rights reserved.