FILE - Florida Rep. Paul Renner

Florida Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast

(The Center Square) – When Florida lawmakers return to Tallahassee in March to begin their 2023 legislative session, one topic that could be up for consideration is the state's unemployment benefits.

Florida’s current maximum unemployment benefit is $275 per week, the second-lowest in the U.S. Florida has kept it at this mark for 23 years.

In 1999, the rate was raised from $250 per week to $275, where it has remained. Since that time, a number of other states – including red states – have increased their unemployment benefits. Only Mississippi has lower rates at $235 per week.

Florida also allows the fewest maximum weeks of unemployment benefits, which is set at 12 weeks.

Taking inflation into account, Florida’s 1999 unemployment benefit rate of $275 would be valued at $492 today.

House Speaker Paul Renner, who represents the 24th District in Florida, told reporters last week that the legislature may take a look at jobless benefits, but he doesn’t want to raise them too high despite 40-year-high inflation because of what he said happened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Renner said that similar to what happened in 2020, Floridians could rely on unemployment benefits rather than rejoining the workforce if the state raises the benefits too much. Many business operators blamed worker shortages in 2021 and 2022 on the federal government's supplemental unemployment benefits during the pandemic, COVID-19 stimulus checks and enhanced child tax credits.

After a bipartisan COVID-19 stimulus package was approved in 2020, the federal government added on an extra $600 per week in jobless benefits to what the unemployed were already being paid by the state, which went on for over a year.

“People can be rational and say, ‘if I’m making more money getting benefits than working then maybe I’ll take a long vacation,’” Renner told reporters. “We can always look at it, right? Because we are in these inflationary times. But I think we need to be careful to make sure we don’t create the clearly unintended consequences that took place as a result.”

Unemployed Floridians were receiving a maximum $875 per week in unemployment benefits during the pandemic, $275 from the state and an additional $600 from the U.S. government. Many business owners felt the enhanced benefits gave no incentive for people to work.