FERNANDINA BEACH WEATHER

State Senator Aaaron Bean responds to concern over unemployment assistance: offers options for help

State Senator Aaron Bean
April 13, 2020

These trying times are continuing to challenge our healthcare systems, our economy and our government systems designed to help our citizens. Our office has received multiple phone calls and emails about difficulties in applying for unemployment assistance. I understand your frustrations about not being able to access the Department of Economic Opportunity website.
We have been in contact with the Governor’s office, the Department of Economic Opportunity, local governments and employers. Everyone agrees-this needs to be fixed. While I am hopeful that recent changes and added resources will make the process easier, we will continue to work with all parties to help in any way we can.
This newsletter has many links that may be of interest. Please let me or my team know if we can be of assistance. Together, we’ll work to recover and come back stronger as a community! #COVID19
Sincerely, Aaron Bean

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Yesterday, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) announced multiple actions taken to improve the ability for Floridians to access the Reemployment Assistance program. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, DEO is seeing historic increases in Floridians filing for Reemployment Assistance. Last week, Governor DeSantis signed Executive Order 20-93, directing DEO and other executive agencies to take all necessary actions to improve the Reemployment Assistance program.

I want to thank Governor DeSantis for providing my agency with the resources needed to assist Floridians as quickly as possible,” said Ken Lawson, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “It is imperative that my team can provide multiple avenues to Floridians who have lost their jobs and been impacted by COVID-19. We are all hands-on deck throughout the state working with every state agency and resource we have, and we will not rest until the issues are resolved.”

Reemployment Support

Access the Department of Economic Opportunity mobile app by clicking here.

Employ Florida: Florida’s official online resource for employers and career seekers seeking recruiting, hiring and training assistance.

Reemployment Assistance Program (State): If your employment has been negatively impacted as a result of the mitigation efforts in Florida to stop the spread of COVID-19, you may be eligible to receive Reemployment Assistance benefits, formerly known as unemployment compensation. For more information, review the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) Reemployment Assistance FAQS. During this time, DEO waived job search requirements for claimants (i.e., individuals who file for Reemployment Assistance) and waived the requirement for Floridians to wait a week to receive Reemployment Assistance benefits through May 8, 2020.

Reemployment Assistance benefits can be filed by accessing CONNECT online via http://www.floridajobs.org/ or by calling 1-800-681-8102. In addition, DEO is providing paper applications to Floridians who need to apply for Reemployment Assistance benefits. Paper applications may be downloaded here and mailed to Florida Department of Economic Opportunity; P.O. Box 5350; Tallahassee, FL 32314-5350. Paper applications are also available for pick-up from CareerSource one-stop centers (click here to find a local center) and FedEx is offering free printing and mailing of Reemployment Assistance paper applications at over 100 storefronts across the state. Please note paper applications may take longer to process. For more information, please visit
www.floridajobs.org/COVID-19.

Eligibility Criteria: If you have a history of wages in the state of Florida, you are actively able and available to seek and accept new employment, and you are currently unemployed or work reduced hours through no fault of your own, you may be eligible to receive Reemployment Assistance benefits. Eligibility may also include those who are quarantined by a medical professional or a government agency; those who are laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period by their employer due to COVID-19 concerns; and those who are caring for an immediate family member who is diagnosed with COVID-19.

Temporary Layoff Program (State): This is part of the Reemployment Assistance program. Individuals on a “temporary layoff,” which means a job separation due to lack of work which does not exceed 8 consecutive weeks and which has a fixed or approximate return-to-work date, may be eligible if they were temporarily laid off due to the virus and remain available to work. Click here for more information.

Personal Care Attendant Program: Agency for Health Care Administration launched a program to allow personal care attendants to temporarily perform additional duties. This program will provide nursing homes with an avenue to hire Floridians currently out of work to fill staffing shortages. Job listings will be available on the Florida Health Care Association’s job board or directly from nursing homes across the state.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (Federal): Under the CARES Act, individuals who are self-employed, independent contractors, and nonprofit employees, those that are otherwise ineligible for state Reemployment Assistance benefits and those that have exhausted state and federal benefits may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. As federal guidance is still under development, individuals are encouraged to apply for benefits from DEO – to see if the individual is eligible for a regular claim and to be positioned to receive PUA benefits, if eligible. DEO suggests that after the individual submits a claim, he or she should continue to check the CONNECT account for updates on what additional information is needed. DEO is implementing federal guidance for the program that was released on April 5 and taking the necessary steps to facilitate state participation in the program. Click here for more information.

Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (Federal): The CARES Act included provisions to provide individuals receiving Reemployment Assistance or receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance with payments of $600 for weeks of unemployment through July 31, 2020. This is an “emergency increase” that is in addition to other benefit payments. An individual who files a new benefits claim or has an existing RA claim has to take no additional action to receive the additional benefits. Payments will be issued
as they become available.

Resources for Frequently Asked Questions

Automated Community Connection to Economic Self Sufficiency (ACCESS): Provides eligible low income families with state economic assistance, such as food assistance (SNAP), temporary cash assistance (TANF), and Medicaid. Families who are eligible should not experience any disruption in their services during this time. In addition, DCF waived work requirements for individuals participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and no Medicaid recipient will lose Medicaid eligibility during the state of emergency. In addition, DCF has temporarily increased SNAP recipients’ benefit amount to the maximum monthly allotment based on household size to assist families during this
time.

Eligibility criteria: Families interested in applying can reach an agent at 850-300-4323, (TTY) 1-800-955-8771 or visit website. DCF is also extending the timeframe for individuals applying for Medicaid, beginning with applications received in February 2020, to submit any necessary paperwork to 120 days from the date the application was received. If the Medicaid application is approved, the individual’s Medicaid eligibility effective date will still be the first day of the month that the initial application was received.

Child Support Program: The Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) provides online resources to assist families in handling their child support case without visiting a local Child Support Office. For updates and case information, customers can call (850) 488-5437 (for all counties, except Miami Dade County). Miami Dade County residents should call 305-530-2600.

Community Action Survey – Stronger Than C-19: Florida residents are encouraged to do their part in helping Florida flatten the curve by anonymously answering questions that range from age and residency, to recent travel, to potential COVID-19 contact. The StrongerThanC-19 community action survey is designed to gather information to help the Department of Health track and slow the spread of COVID-19 in Florida; it is not a symptom checker designed to dispense medical advice. The StrongerThanC-19 community action survey is free to use and can be accessed by visiting: www.StrongerThanC19.com.

Economic Impact Payments: As part of the federal CARES Act, economic impact payments will begin in the next three weeks and will be distributed automatically, with no action required for most people. However, some taxpayers who typically do not file returns will need to submit a simple tax return to receive the economic impact payment.

Eligibility Criteria: Tax filers with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 for individuals and up to $150,000 for married couples filing joint returns will receive the full payment. For filers with income above those amounts, the payment amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 above the $75,000/$150,000 thresholds. Single filers with income exceeding $99,000 and $198,000 for joint filers with no children are not eligible. Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 will automatically receive an economic impact payment of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples. Parents also receive $500 for each qualifying child. For
additional information, please visit the IRS website by clicking here.

Mortgages: The Governor issued Executive Order 20-94, providing targeted, temporary relief from certain mortgage foreclosures and evictions for 45 days, without relieving an individual’s obligation to make mortgage payments and rent payments. If your ability to pay your mortgage is impacted, contact your mortgage servicer (the company where you send your monthly payments) as soon as possible to let them know about your current circumstances, as they may have options to assist you during this time. The telephone number and mailing address of your mortgage servicer should be listed on your monthly mortgage statement. HUD ordered a 60-day foreclosure moratorium for homeowners affected by coronavirus, effective as of March 18, 2020. Click here for
HUD resources and Fact Sheets. Additionally, homeowners have the right to request a forbearance from their loan service providers for up to 180 days and to request one extension for another up to 180 days.

COVID-19 Call Center (24/7) & Updates: COVID-19 hotline: 866-779-6121 or email [email protected] For the most up to date information on COVID-19 in Florida, please visit https://floridahealthcovid19.gov/. For federal updates related to COVID 19 in the US, please visit https://www.usa.gov/coronavirus.

Rental Assistance

Rentals: For renters that rent from an owner who has a federally backed mortgage, the CARES Act provides for a suspension or moratorium on evictions. A landlord with a federally backed mortgage or multi-family mortgage cannot evict a renter nonpayment of rent for 120 days beginning on March 27, 2020. After the 120-day period is up, the landlord cannot require the tenant to vacate until providing a 30-day notice to vacate. Additional information may be found at this link.

Rental Assistance: Local State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP) Programs may have strategies in place to allocate resources to eligible families that provide rental assistance not to exceed 12 months. To find your local government SHIP office’s contact information and whether they have rental assistance available or any other local housing resource that may assist your family, please click here.

Rental Housing Locator: Families searching for affordable housing rentals, please visit
https://www.floridahousingsearch.org/.

Insurance Information

Insurance: Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) is encouraging all insurers it regulates to be flexible in collecting premium by extending grace or reinstatement periods, waiving late fees and penalties, and allowing payment plans to avoid cancelling insurance coverage. Some health insurers have announced that they will waive patient cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing or treatment. The recently passed Federal CARES Act and Family First Coronavirus Response Act included expanded insurance provisions related to COVID-19 testing and obtaining medical services through telemedicine. The OIR is encouraging insurers, HMOs,and other entities to broaden access to telehealth services. Please reach out directly to your insurance providers on any updates available to you policy related to COVID-19.

The OIR is also directing workers’ compensation carriers to pay benefits to first responders, medical personnel, and others infected with COVID-19 while on the job. Florida’s Chief Financial Officer is directing the Division of Risk Management to provide workers’ compensation coverage to state employees who are fighting COVID-19.

The Insurance Commissioner has also strongly recommended that insurers seeking to perform inspections related to underwriting or claims use virtual options. The OIR is also encouraging health insurers, HMOs and pharmacy benefit managers use electronic auditing rather than in-person auditing, and is encouraging pharmacy benefit managers to extend audit deadlines during the public health emergency. For updates and information released by OIR, please click here.

Insurance Consumer Helpline: The Insurance Consumer Helpline can be reached at 1-877-413-3089 and is available Monday through Friday (8am- 5pm EST) to address insurance related inquiries. The Florida Relay Service provides communications assistance to individuals with hearing, speech or vision disabilities and can be reached by dialing 711.

Elder Care

Doorstep Meal Delivery for All Seniors: The Department of Elder Affairs has partnered with the Department of Business Regulation and the Florida Restaurant Lodging Association to provide meal delivery services to older adults that are home bound. This initiative is separate from the Elder Food Program described below and available to all seniors. For those interested in obtaining this services,
please reach out directly to your local Area Agency on Aging for more information. To locate a local area agency on aging, please click here or contact 1-800-963-5337.

Health Care Support

Abuse Hotline (24/7): The Florida Abuse Hotline accepts reports of known or suspected child abuse, neglect, or abandonment and reports of known or suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Report online or by calling 1-800-962-2873.

Early Prescription Refills: The Governor and the Insurance Commissioner have required all health insurers and HMOs that are licensed in Florida to authorize up to a 30 day supply of most prescription drugs and to waive time restrictions on prescription drug refills. Click here for more information.

Hospital Bed Capacity Dashboard: The Agency for Healthcare Administration launched a new hospital bed capacity dashboard to assist in COVID-19 response efforts throughout the state. The dashboard offers real-time, critical information on total hospital bed availability and ICU bed availability at both the county and hospital level.

Local County Health Department & Testing Sites: Consult with your referring healthcare provider on available testing site locations. However, you can search for your local county health department online, where you can inquire about testing available at their location or elsewhere in the community (if known).

Suicide Prevention: If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please call 800-273-8255 right away. More crisis support information is also available online.

Resource Links
Click on the resource to access the link.

Governor’s Resources & Executive Resources

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Florida Department of Health

Florida Department of Emergency Management

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity

Small Business Loans

Re-Employment Assistance

Price – Gouging Hotline

Coronavirus Tax Relief

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Free Meals for Kids and Teens

Adult Care Food Program

Florida Department of Education Family Resources

Local Resources

Duval County:

City of Jacksonville

Atlantic Beach

Neptune Beach

Jacksonville Beach

Duval County School District

Nassau County:

Amelia Island

Fernandina Beach

Nassau County Emergency Management

Nassau County School District

Nassau County Chamber of Commerce

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