Issues filing for Florida unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic

By Samone Blair
Medill Reports

Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) issued a statement Monday calling for the U.S. Department of Labor Investigator General to investigate the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s failure to implement unemployment benefits that were expanded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020, citing that only 28% of requests for the benefits had been processed.

While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has dismissed Sen. Schumer and Sen. Wyden’s request as partisan, systems designed by the department have had difficulty processing the millions of unemployment requests filed by Floridians since mid-March. Gov. DeSantis even compared the system to a “jalopy” that tried to race in the Daytona 500.

Local officials like State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-47) have dedicated their efforts to informing Floridians of how to file claims in this difficult time. “This governor has painted a very rosy picture of the unemployment process, blaming the people of Florida for any problems that are taking place,” said Rep. Eskamani.

Rep. Eskamani hosts a weekly Facebook Live briefing to answer questions about the unemployment process. Before a recent town hall, she received 11 pages of questions on a broad range of topics, ranging from technological issues with filing on the mobile site, to difficulty receiving backpay after waiting several months for benefits, and to inconsistent messaging about the requirements for independent contractors.

Rep. Eskamani has donated her legislative salary via Venmo and Cash App to Floridians whose unemployment claims have not been processed yet. “I felt like it was inappropriate for me to get paid when so many folks aren’t getting paid from their tax dollars,” said Rep. Eskamani

Photo at top: The wait queue to enter the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s CONNECT website, which is where Floridians file for unemployment benefits. (floridajobs.org)
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