The Florida Unemployment debacle has been covered extensively several times in numerous articles. So by now, it’s no secret that it was designed to fail from the very beginning which has only been exacerbated by job losses as a result of COVID-19. A counterpoint — in defense of the website — is it couldn’t possibly have been designed to take on several thousand unemployment claims. And some essential workers have been somewhat critical of unemployed workers who are receiving more money than they are in some states (which I responded to here). To top it off, with the CARES Act, people who weren’t eligible before became eligible for benefits — increasing the workload.
But not all unemployment systems were created equally. While no system is perfect, and even the most robust website could still buckle under thousands of requests — there’s no good reason why any government should have botched this so badly. But since we’ve long passed the point of no return and hindsight is 20/20; we have to look forward to what steps the Florida government, Department of Revenue, and the Department of Economic Opportunity is currently taking to mitigate this mess. This is where we’ll get an idea of how things will play out. It’s not looking too good at the moment, however. In an effort to streamline the [online] application process — Florida possibly ended up botching that, too. The end game might leave people jobless with little help.
The numbers aren’t looking good at the moment
On Thursday, Gov. DeSantis announced Florida sent unemployment payments to only 33,623 people who applied for benefits after the COVID-19 outbreak. 850,000 people have filed so far.
The Florida Unemployment website $32 million dollars later
In a bid to aid with unemployment woes, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity recently dumped $32 million dollars into the unemployment system. I wanted to explore what working with the system currently looks like. It remains to be seen if they will be able to workout the kinks any time soon.
At the time of writing, the newest iteration of CONNECT — something of a successor to the original Florida unemployment website — is not without its fair share of problems. Below are pictures of errors I got when I attempted to file a new claim on their newest website.
For some inexplicable reason I was prompted to change my password right after I registered. So I proceeded.
After changing my password, I got an error message telling me my credentials were incorrect. This kept happening even after utilizing different emails.
So paper applications were recommended but it’s not a viable solution
Both websites are out of commission and are inaccessible for most applicants. It was recommended that applicants log on during late and early morning hours. But currently, the website routinely goes down from 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m for maintenance. So the government has been recommended to fill out paper applications. And hundreds in Hialeah did just that—putting themselves at risk to contract the coronavirus. (An insider disclosed masks and gloves were not mandatory.) However, Florida still isn’t getting benefits out to people who need them the most. It isn’t on a first come, first serve basis. And when you account for the lengthy process even if you file via paper, the Department of Revenue may not determine your eligibility for some time (and that includes the extra $600 from the CARES Act).
Florida Unemployment expands their call center but has been slow to mobilize
Out of the $116 million dollars poured into Florida Unemployment — it includes an expansion on the call center which has about 2,000 temporary employees onboard.
Titan Technologies, the contractor deployed by the Department of Economic Opportunity, is still recruiting people. But just like any other company — they must implement background checks, training courses, and other administrative processes before workers can start. And due to COVID-19 and the CARES Act, changes have been made to the unemployment process which might hinder things. Workers will be facing an uphill battle if they’re ill-prepared.
Where Florida Unemployment goes from here
It’s hard to say what, if any, relief will come soon due to the sheer volume of applicants and questionable decisions which have been made by the Florida government throughout this ordeal. DeSantis has recognized a three week turnaround is too long. So we’re looking at least another month of this if not two.
The worst case scenario is the government burned through $116 million dollars with nothing to show for it. Their websites are still a mess; there’s not enough workers to handle phone calls, emails and faxes; applications are backed up even if you file by paper; and there’s nothing to speed up the process. The best case scenario is their websites get up and working over the weekend and their contractors starts processing applications now.
[The Wink has provided frequently asked questions (FAQ) if you are looking for more answers regarding Florida Unemployment. You can read it here.]