Florida releases unemployment numbers: 1.5 million claims filed, just 40,193 paid

The new site is an effort at transparency, state officials said.
An unidentified employee at the Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library hands an unemployment application to a motorist Monday, April 13, 2020 in Tampa.
An unidentified employee at the Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library hands an unemployment application to a motorist Monday, April 13, 2020 in Tampa. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published April 20, 2020|Updated April 20, 2020

Just 40,193 Floridians who have filed for unemployment since March 15 have received their benefits, according to a new website the state launched Monday.

That’s less than 3 percent of the more than 1.5 million claims filed since mid March when the state saw a record surge in people thrown out of work because of the coronavirus.

The new site, which is expected to be updated daily, provides the first look at the scope of the state’s unemployment crisis and the workload faced by the Department of Economic Opportunity, the agency tasked with processing claims:

  • Of the more than 1.5 million claims, just 162,039 have been processed by the state to determine if the person is eligible for unemployment.
  • Of the 162,039 claims, 41,573 — about one in four — were found ineligible for assistance.
  • Nearly $60 million has been paid to 40,193 Floridians, but the state has been slow to pay out the $600-per-week federal unemployment benefits. Of the $60 million, just $14.3 million is federal help.

Since Florida’s unemployment crisis began more than a month ago, state officials have been virtually silent about how many claims have been filed, processed and paid. Officials have failed to provide details or respond to questions from reporters and lawmakers.

Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis admitted his own department still had not given him those figures, which are essential benchmarks for tracking the state’s progress. DeSantis last week replaced the man in charge of the state unemployment system with Department of Management Services Secretary Jonathan Satter.

In a statement announcing the new website, Satter said his No. 1 goal is to make sure Floridians “get paid, quickly.”

“This will start with complete transparency, efficiently streamlining the re-employment assistance process, waiving all red tape and ensuring hurting Florida families have the aid they need to get through COVID-19," he said.

The 1.5 million claims filed likely includes people who have filed two or three times out of desperation or frustration with the state’s unemployment system, known as CONNECT. It doesn’t include the people still having trouble filing at all.

The system, which already had a history of problems, has been crippled by the crush of claims, prompting the state to revert to paper applications.

More than 86,000 of the 1.5 million claims were filed by paper. Nearly 800,000 more claims were filed on a new online application form the state launched late last month.

Despite upgrades to CONNECT, 100 new servers added to the system and the state spending up to $110 million on private call centers to back up the site, it has been struggling to keep up with the workload. To relieve the system, DeSantis last week issued an executive order waiving the requirement that people log in every two weeks to claim their benefits.

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