Frustrated Floridians report that the state’s website is routinely down for maintenance and the phone lines have been unavailable.
Despite the huge number of errors, backups, and delays created by the state’s glitch-ridden $77 million CONNECT unemployment application system, on Friday Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a press conference held in Tallahassee that the fault lies not in the system but on some of the applicants.
According to the staunch Trump ally, Floridians who have been unable to receive either state or federal benefits may be to blame for their troubles. A number of the more than one million people who applied in March or early April, said the Republican, did not fill out their applications correctly, failing to enter their Social Security number or other vital information.
“Nine times out of 10, the application’s incomplete,” DeSantis said. “And I think if you have applied in that time period, and your application’s complete, and you qualify, I think 99.99 percent of those folks have been paid.”
DeSantis was backed-up by a Department of Economic Opportunity spokesperson, who directed applicants to log in to the state’s system and check their inbox to make sure their application is complete.
The Numbers Tell the Story
The fact is that as many unemployed Floridians struggle to meet their financial obligations, or see their savings being depleted as the weeks go by without their checks, the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity reports that of the more than one million unemployment claims received, approximately less than half have been paid so far.
After making dozens of attempts to apply, or waiting more than two months for their benefits, frustrated Floridians report that the state’s website is routinely down for maintenance and the phone lines to speak with a representative have been fraught with problems or completely unavailable.
Another possible reason for the problem is that the agency limits how many users can connect at one time, the state revealed Tuesday. The Department of Economic Opportunity recommends applicants to try connecting or calling at off-peak times in the evening, at “different times of day” or “early in the day” to get through to a person.
A Growing Desperation
Although State unemployment numbers for April won’t be released until May 22, Florida’s jobless rate for March was 4.3%, closely following the U.S. rate of 4.4%. According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (FDEO), as of May 3 the state, which has a population of 21.5 million, had filed 1,025,657 unique unemployment claims, surpassing California, which has a population nearly double that, or 40 million.
But despite the growing economic crisis across the state, Florida has been the slowest state in the nation to process claims through the first month of the COVID-19 pandemic. Repeated efforts continue to fail to fix the problem, including making a switch to paper applications and spending nearly an additional $120 million to develop another website.