On Wednesday, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is marking the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty the day after he rejected extended federal benefits for long-term unemployment, a cushion that has helped keep millions out of poverty. He was one of 37 Republican senators who voted against the bill even though his state that has the most to lose from the expiration of unemployment benefits.
According to a study from Florida International University, Florida already cuts off its unemployment benefits at an earlier stage than most states. Starting January, Florida residents out of work will only receive state benefits for up to 16 weeks. Before that change, it was already one of only six states to cut off benefits before 26 weeks of unemployment. Federal dollars had kicked in once states cut off benefits, which meant Florida residents could receive up to 39 weeks. Florida’s maximum benefit is also lower than other states, at $275 a week.
Meanwhile, Florida’s workers were out of work for an average of 44 weeks in 2011 and 2012, the longest period in the nation. Incomplete data from last year point to an even longer duration in 2013. The Sun-Sentinel reported the expiration caused 73,000 unemployed Floridians to lose their benefits immediately. And if they are not extended soon, another 260,400 in Florida will be hurt.
Rubio is not the only senator to hail from a state disproportionately impacted by the unemployment debate. Many of the Republicans who voted against bill happen to represent states with the highest unemployment rates in the nation. Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker (R-MS), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker (R-TN) all voted no despite representing states with unemployment over 8 percent.
Thanks to six Republicans joining Democratic senators to advance the extension, it will still move on to the next vote, without Rubio’s help.