Victims of domestic violence are gaining greater financial protections under legislation sponsored by Senator Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville) and Representative Dotie Joseph (D-Miami-Dade), and signed by the governor.
HB 563 which unanimously passed both chambers of the legislature, allows employees who are victims of domestic violence to become eligible for reemployment benefits when they must leave work because of a reasonable fear that they will be the victim of a future act of violence at, in transit to, or departing from work. Providing this assistance, for a limited time, increases protections for victims of domestic violence and allows individuals to seek safer employment, either in a different department, at their current job, or at a new job.
“I want to thank the Governor for signing this legislation which is extremely important for self-protection and self-support for victims of domestic violence. This legislation makes reasonable efforts to preserve employment and also decreases the risk for future incidents of domestic violence,” said Senator Gibson.
“Too often, victims of domestic violence stay in life-threatening situations because of a lack of shelter or financial limitations. Allowing victims of domestic violence to qualify for unemployment compensation alleviates some of the financial insecurity that keeps victims from escaping,” stated Representative Joseph. “This was my first bill so I am especially honored that our colleagues in both the House and Senate unanimously voted to approve this measure, and thrilled that the Governor signed it into law! Hopefully, the bipartisan support of HB 563 sends a strong message to survivors that ‘we stand with you, you don’t deserve to be abused, and there is help’.” said Representative Joseph.
Data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) data indicates there were a total of 106,979 acts of domestic violence reported in 2017, and 64,781 arrests based on those acts. Currently, Florida has 42 certified domestic violence shelters. In Fiscal Year 2016-2017, the Florida Department of Children and Families reported that a total of 14,412 people were admitted to domestic violence shelters for the first time, while over 37,000 people received new non-residential services from a certified shelter.
This law takes effect on July 1, 2019.