Regular readers of this blog are keenly aware of the value of US Dept. of Labor WIRED grants in stimulating regional economies and eliminating pockets of high unemployment. A Florida unemployment grant would be great news for workers, particularly in parts of the state that have traditionally experienced high unemployment.
Regions that have benefited from previous WIRED grants include northern Alabama, northern Indiana, the Delaware Valley, the Mississippi/Arkansas Delta area and northern California. US Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao recently announced a competition for the third generation of WIRED grants. The program is called Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development Initiative, but almost universally referred to as WIRED grants.
As with previous WIRED grants, competition is keen. Proposals for WIRED grants must have the state governor’s approval. Each governor received a letter from Secretary Chao about the competition. Governors may submit up to two proposals, for grants up to $5 million each. Competing regions must identify sources of state, regional, and private funding to complement the Labor Department’s investment. “The Third Generation of WIRED is designed to position local Workforce Investment Boards as leaders of a strategic regional partnership,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Emily Stover DeRocco. “Through talent development strategies and integration with regional economic development, this partnership can drive economic transformation in regions across the country and improve employment and advancement opportunities for workers.”
According to the Dept. of Labor, the Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development Initiative supports innovative approaches to workforce and economic development that go beyond traditional strategies preparing workers to compete and succeed. Through WIRED, the department has invested $260 million in 26 regions throughout the country. The program and has facilitated cooperation between 10 federal agencies, sparking synergy to create high skill and high wage job opportunities for American workers in regional economies.
The federal disaster unemployment system is also beneficial to some employers because it will pay them unemployment insurance payments themselves, which the normal state unemployment system might not do. For instance, with self employed folks, fishermen, ranch hands, and farmers, they can get the federal unemployment insurance, even though they normally would not receive unemployment insurance through the normal state run system.
The funding for these benefits comes directly from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, instead of from Florida employers. The program is administered by the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation. But employers and their workers in the hard hit counties of Florida cannot be sitting on their hands and waiting for this benefit to come to them.
The deadline for receiving these benefits is almost upon us. It is March 6, so legal residents of the state must get their applications in before then. Also, to get these benefits, you must have run out of your normal unemployment benefits, and you must be a resident of the county in which a federally declared major disaster occurred. You can get these benefits once you apply and are accepted for up to 26 weeks, from the date that the disaster was announced. That means then that you could be receiving federally mandated unemployment insurance benefits through August 4, 2007.
You could also get these benefits if you were not yet working but were scheduled to start working when the tornadoes hit and thus closed down the business or made it impossible for you in some way to get to that business to start work. For more information on how to apply or to have one of your workers apply for the federal unemployment assistance, you can view all of these details and requirements at the Web site www.fluidnow.com.
We were talking a couple weeks ago about all of the employers who were affected by the hurricanes of a couple years ago. The damage from Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita was so strong and widespread that many employers in those Gulf States need assistance when it comes to taxes, and when it comes to unemployment insurance. For the time being, employers and their workers in Florida are receiving similar help with unemployment issues when it comes to the damage from those terrible tornadoes that touched down in central Florida in early February.
Relief has come from the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, which started a program that affords individuals who lost their jobs or businesses because of these tornadoes the right to get Disaster Unemployment Assistance benefits. These benefits are available for wherever the president and the governor of the state declared a major disaster, which was in the counties of Lake, Seminole, Volusia, and Sumter. That allows federal funds to come in and help employers and workers helped in these counties.
This benefits, however, do not necessarily go to those workers who get unemployment benefits through the regular system—and this should be duly noted for employers who will be still paying for these workers. In order to get the federal benefits, workers and their employers have to prove that the disaster was directly responsible for why these people can no longer work and need this unemployment assistance.
This distinction is important why, my loyal readers are asking. Well, my loyal readers, I have gone over the basic so unemployment insurance, so I am a little disappointed that I need to reiterate the lesson here. But remember—in the case of regular unemployment, you get a worse experience rating the more workers you lay off, and a worse experience rating means you will pay more for unemployment down the road. So it is good to not have unemployed workers count toward your experience rating.
Linda H. South, Director of the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, recently released Florida’s labor market statistics for November 2006, the most recent figures available.
This latest report shows continued sunny results in the Florida unemployment picture. Based on the latest nationwide data, Florida had the fastest job growth rate and lowest unemployment rate of the ten most populous states. Florida’s unemployment rate continued to be below the national average. The seasonally adjusted November 2006 unemployment rate was 3.3%, just 0.2% higher than that October rate of 3.1%. The rate was down 0.2% from last year.
Florida continues to have lower unemployment than the national average. The unemployment rate was 1.2% lower than the national average. The national unemployment rate for the most recent period of November 2006 is 4.5%. Out of a civilian labor force of 9,118,000, there were 8,818,000 employed and 301,000 unemployed Floridians in November.
Florida’s unemployment rate has been below the national average since mid-2002. The non-agricultural employment expanded by 2.7% in the time period from November 2005 to November 2006. Nonagricultural employment totaled 8,126,200 jobs. In comparison, nonagricultural employment grew nationally at a rate of just 1.3 percent. Florida’s job growth rate has slowed most of this year primarily due to slower growth in the construction industry.
A total of 211,400 new Florida jobs were added since November 2005. Most of the jobs were in the professional and business services industry, and the leisure and hospitality industry. Together, those two markets accounted for 42.3 percent of the new jobs in the state over the year.
Florida’s total nonagricultural employment has expanded steadily since September 2002. In November 2006, there were 8,181,300 nonagricultural jobs, an increase of 2.7 percent, adding a total of 212,600 jobs during the course of the year. Most of Florida’s major industry sectors added jobs over the year, except manufacturing and information, which lost 4,200 jobs and 800 jobs, respectively.