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Unemployment compensation closer to being renamed ‘Reemployment assistance’

In a “glass-is-half-full” move, lawmakers are looking to reform the state’s unemployment compensation program by, among other measures, renaming it “Reemployment assistance.”

HB 7027, the rebranding bill sponsored by Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota, was passed by the Economic Affairs Committee on Thursday, and is now a committee bill.

The proposal rebrands the state’s unemployment compensation program and adds other reforms.

The Department of Economic Opportunity would be required to give unemployment compensation seekers an initial skills test, score them, and offer free training to workers who score low on the test.

“The initial skills review will be used to determine the type of training that may help improve their skill set,” said Holder.

The bill follows several sharp reforms of the unemployment compensation system last year, when lawmakers cut the maximum number of weeks from 26 to 23 and mandated several requirements for those seeking unemployment compensation, including drug tests.

Last year’s reforms also required unemployment compensation seekers to make five “employer contacts” per week, or visit a career center each week to qualify for assistance. Holder’s proposal scales back the number of required employer contacts from five to three for rural counties where there are fewer businesses.

The bill passed the Economic Affairs committee on a unanimous vote, although some lawmakers expressed concerns about the optimistic name change, since it may make it harder for people to find important information.

"If there’s anybody out there who’s not able to get [unemployment] insurance because they can’t find this program, then we have a real problem,” said Rep. James Waldman, D-Coconut Creek.