Filing for Unemployment causes problems in Florida

Governor Ron Desantis speaking at a drive through Coronavirus testing location.

Photo: Wilfredo Lee/AP

Governor Ron Desantis speaking at a drive through Coronavirus testing location.

Alexis Incandela, Reporter

Weeks ago, when officials closed non-essential businesses due to COVID-19, more than 16.8 million people filed for unemployment in the U.S. alone. However, filing for the unemployment benefits has been extra difficult for Florida residents.

There are multiple ways a person can file for unemployment in Florida, but they all seem to have issues. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s Connect website, has been malfunctioning and kicking people out of the system, often making them put in the same information multiple times. There are several locations open for in-person filing, but the waiting period can take up to several hours as they are overflowing with people and have few workers. This in-person filing is placing people at risk because it is against official advice regarding social distancing. Many filers are complaining about the call centers and are frustrated with not being able to get through to a staff member, the average wait time being up to 400 minutes. Applications can also be printed and mailed in for processing, but because libraries are closed, people without printers struggle to find alternatives. These problems are leaving many unable to complete the process for a few days, if not weeks. All the while, they are unable to access funds they may desperately need.

As the virus is affecting more people, those who might not have qualified for benefits before, have a chance at qualifying now. Those in Florida who are unemployed can receive a maximum of $275 a week, whereas most states maximum is around $366. Recently however, President Donald Trump approved the U.S. CARES Act: the $2.2 trillion federal stimulus bill which will add $600 a week for four weeks.

Since this pandemic is affecting people globally, many landlords and schools are waving or suspending fees until further notice. The number of unemployed is expected to rise in the days to come, increasing the likeness for many to fall into poverty. “The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is committed to ensuring Floridians are able to receive the benefits owed to them during this global pandemic,” said Ken Lawson, an Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “The team is working around the clock to make the process for applying for Reemployment Assistance as easy as possible for Floridians.”

For those applying, they remain skeptical as the initial and ongoing promises of a better system have, so far, failed to come true.