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Rick Scott Wants Mandatory Training For Jobless Benefits

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RICK SCOTT

Florida Gov. Rick Scott's jobs agenda for 2012 aims to reduce burdensome regulations for businesses and to increase them for jobless workers seeking benefits.

"Rather than continue to simply pay out benefits for those out of work, Florida must focus its efforts on ensuring that it can offer the most able workforce in the nation," says an outline of Scott's proposal, which the Tea Party champ unveiled Wednesday. "Requiring training as a part of the benefits administration will help Florida lead the nation in creating new jobs."

Earlier this year Scott signed legislation that will make Florida the stingiest state in America for people laid off through no fault of their own. Once the law takes full effect in January, jobless Floridians will be eligible for fewer and fewer weeks of benefits as the state's unemployment rate goes down.

One part of the legislation, which took effect in August, has required unemployment claimants to participate in an "Initial Skills Review" for job search assistance. The review is an online test that includes reading and math questions. Claimants have to "complete" the test but not "pass," according to an Agency for Workforce Innovation document.

Scott's proposal describes training as the "next step" in reforming the state's unemployment system. The key initiative will require "unemployment recipients who fail basic job skills testing to enter a workforce training program to learn those basic skills in order to continue receiving benefits."

In addition to boosting requirements for jobless seeking benefits, this year Scott required welfare recipients to submit to drug tests. The same policy, modeled on Scott's example, has been proposed in several other states.

The National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group, supports job training programs for the unemployed, but the organization won't take a position on Scott's proposals before more details are revealed. NELP senior staff attorney George Wentworth said his organization views the previously-passed law as the most "comprehensively awful" of the unemployment reforms enacted in 10 states this year. Wentworth said requirements that the jobless apply for benefits online and submit the names and addresses of places they sought jobs every week amount to barriers that restrict access to benefits.

"We have a big access issue in Florida," Wentworth said. "The changes in the law have made it much more difficult for Floridians to file for benefits, and the initial skills review is part of that story."

There are no details about how the program would work. A Scott spokesman did not immediately provide additional details about the proposal.

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