TAMPA, Fla. - Thousands of Floridians trying to file unemployment claims encountered another obstacle on Friday morning. Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity shut down its Connect online unemployment system and said it does not plan to bring back online until Monday.
The state's new reemployment assistance program is still online, but only for new applicants.
“We needed all the processing power we could get to process payments. We have a number of large batch jobs that were ready. Rather than place a lot of drain on the system today and over the weekend, we said ‘let’s take it down.’ Let’s process as many payments as we can,” said Jonathan Satter, Florida’s secretary of the Department of Management Services.
“This weekend, one of the purposes of taking the system down, in addition to running a bunch of batch jobs and payment queues, is we are doing some software retooling to make things a lot more efficient.”
Meanwhile, the state is sending conflicting signals regarding the governor’s executive order waiving work-search requirements for applicants.
The state notes it suspended the requirement to repeatedly check back in and continue to seek work during the pandemic in order to continue receiving benefits. However, FOX 13 viewers continue to send us screengrabs showing the state is still instructing applicants to adhere to those requirements.
Satter said the state currently does not have the ability to waive the requirements for the weekly $600 federal unemployment payments under the CARES Act.
The federal CARES Act requires states to distribute the payments based on existing state guidelines. Because the state had existing work-search requirements when the CARES Act was passed, the DeSantis administration has determined it has to keep the requirements in place, unless or until the federal government allows Florida to waive them.
Frustrated applicants have launched virtual protests as they wait for benefits.
The state says it is making progress in sending payments. However, the backlog of claims continues to grow as the number of new claims that come in with each passing day continues to exceed the number of claims the state is processing with each passing.
The state dashboard also shows the administration processed fewer claims each of the past two days.
On Sunday, the governor's office disputed this report as false and lacking the complete story via a response on ‘Florida Politics.’ We have reached out the governor’s office for additional information and will provide updates if we get them.