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Florida unemployment claims reach 1.7 million, but more are being paid

The state made little progress processing claims, however.

TALLAHASSEE — Unemployment claims in Florida climbed to more than 1.7 million, but the state has more than doubled the number of people who have received assistance in the last few days, new data shows.

More than 108,000 Floridians who filed for unemployment since March 15, when the state saw a historic spike in coronavirus-related claims, have been paid. That’s more than double the number of people — 40,193 — who were paid as of Monday.

But those who have been paid represent just 6 percent of the total number of filings, which grew by roughly 200,000 in the last few days.

The 1.7 million filings would make up 17 percent of the state’s labor force. But some of those 1.7 million are likely duplicates or triplicates, as people have tried to file multiple times out of desperation and frustration with the state’s broken unemployment system.

While states across the nation have struggled to handle the crush of people thrown out of work from the pandemic, Florida has processed claims slower than any other state, according to an Associated Press analysis.

Processing claims to determine whether someone is eligible for unemployment is a critical first step to getting people paid.

Yet the the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity has not made much of a dent in the backlog, data shows. By Wednesday, the state had processed just 193,405 claims, only 31,000 more than on Monday.

The state’s early data shows that 65 of the state’s 67 counties have seen a surge in claims. Hospitality and food service workers have filed more claims by far than any other sector, and the state’s most populous county, Miami-Dade, leads the number of unemployment filings so far.

Other findings from Wednesday’s data:

  • The state has paid $143.2 million to the 108,216 recipients, and about 61 percent of those dollars came from federal pandemic assistance program, which pays $600 per week.
  • More than one in four claims processed so far have been denied for being ineligible, but some of those claims are for gig workers, independent contractors and self-employed who are eligible for the federal money, but not the state money. State officials have said those people are being flagged and will received the federal dollars.
  • Paper applications, which were an emergency backup to the state’s broken online system, continue to be mailed in. Of the 1.7 million claims, 139,000 were submitted on paper — more than 53,600 in the last few days alone.

Times staff writer Graham Brink contributed to this report.

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