TAMPA, Fla. - The headaches of navigating Florida's unemployment system and website have only added stress for those out of work. But a new leader in charge of the system is promising complete transparency and efficiency.
One way they're doing it is by posting numbers on an online dashboard, letting people know daily, how many claims have been submitted, verified, processed and paid.
A few who are still waiting to see if they'll get unemployment assistance drove to Tallahassee on Monday to remind state leaders that they need help.
The group was small but outside the Florida State Capitol, they stood for hundreds of thousands.
"I don't think Florida wants to pay unemployment. I just don't think they do," said Kim Donley, who drove up from Zephyrhills.
Donley and Kelly Johnson of Dunedin helped organize Monday's "Tallahassee Stand For Your Unemployment Benefits" event, protesting the state's slow and shaky handling of claims, after the coronavirus outbreak left many out of work. Some stood on the sidewalk, others drive around with signs taped to cars.
"I'm like in this limbo-land here," Donley said. "I can't get ahold of anybody to ask what I'm supposed to be doing. I couldn't even get on the site to fill out an application. I had to wait for the paper ones they have."
So, how many are actually getting help? Monday, the Department of Economic Opportunity launched a dashboard, to be updated daily, on all the claims flooding its CONNECT system.
Since March 15, they've paid $59,928,939 in assistance. They've gotten 1.5 million claims, though, they note that some are duplicates and triplicates.
Of the 652,191 confirmed unique claimants, nearly 25% have been processed with just over 6%, so far, getting weekly checks.
"Rest assured, all of the state’s resources are being dedicated to getting those payments out as quickly as possible," Jonathan Satter, Secretary of the Department of Management Services said last week.
The DEO said on Monday that nearly 24,000 checks up to $600 have gone out those qualifying under the federal CARES Act. They say they're working with the U.S. Department of Labor to find more red tape to cut, so claims are processed faster.
But, for Donley, who's been out of work for a month and has yet to see a check, it's frustrating hearing about so-called progress when she's seeing none.
"If you're gonna fix it, fix it. Don't half-a** it," Donley said. "I need Mr. governor to fix the unemployment. I need an answer why I'm not getting my federal money. Why this is taking so long? We all need the money now."
The DEO said that, over the weekend, they did upgrades to their system so claims can process even faster. To help with that processing, they want to remind everyone that they do nightly maintenance from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. They say this will not affect those who are filing a new claim. That can be done 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you feel sick:
The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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