Unemployment claim form on an office table. Photo: Vitalii Vodolazskyi/Shutterstock.com
Since mid-March, nearly 268,000 Floridians have been denied unemployment benefits. About 40 percent of all claims in the state have been processed so far. But two out of every five people are flagged as ineligible for state benefits.
As of the morning of April 29, 266,361 out of 674,005 processed claims were in this category, about 39.5 percent. “This includes Floridians who have been waiting weeks for benefits, also Floridians who are W2 employees which is strange,” said Orlando-area State Representative Anna Eskamani. “We’re in a really desperate situation when it comes to getting money in people’s hands.”
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (FDEO) released a response late Monday night on April 27 to Spectrum News’ questions about the issues. The DEO said it paid almost $412 million to Floridians, which it calls an increase of about 600%, and that in the process, many people were deemed ineligible. Governor Ron DeSantis explained on Monday how the system was shut down intentionally over the weekend to process another 300,000 claims.
“There were huge problems with this thing. We’ve had people working 24/7 surging the workforce to be able to do it,” DeSantis said.
The governor said the amount of unemployment claims is a part of the problem. FDEO spokeswoman Tiffany Vause said those people are likely eligible for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits. The total amount of benefits is $600 per week and applies to many more people.
Florida’s online unemployment system, CONNECT, has not been able to process claims for people who aren’t eligible for state benefits. That changed on April 28, when the state announced it was able to process the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims.
The only people who are almost certainly ineligible are:
- People who did not lose their job because of the coronavirus
- People who quit voluntarily or were fired
- People who are on paid leave from their job
Other reasons for being deemed ineligible are:
- Wage base period issues
- Lack of wage history
- Multiple claims in one year
- Separation circumstances
- Incomplete applications
Applicants looking to apply for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program must meet the following criteria:
- Individuals who applied for the state’s Reemployment Assistance benefits on or after April 5, 2020, and were deemed ineligible for state reemployment assistance benefits will receive additional application information from the Department. They can also visit www.floridajobs.org/cares-act for more information regarding these programs. Please advise these Floridians to monitor their accounts and email for additional information from the Department.
- Those who are self-employed, contract employees, gig workers, or others who applied for the state’s Reemployment Assistance benefits on or before April 4, 2020, should apply at www.FloridaJobs.org and select “File a Claim” to request PUA.
- Unemployed Floridians who have not yet applied for any benefit should apply at www.FloridaJobs.org and will be considered for all existing programs, including PUA.
Since April 28, the state has processed 664,158 of the state’s 1,941,807 claims, one of the slowest rates in the nation. The department’s website was down all weekend so the state could process more than 400,000 claims. This is the biggest three-day increase the state has managed so far. Florida’s unemployment website will be unavailable for all but new claims each night as the system undergoes maintenance and the state works on a backlog of claims, the Department of Economic Opportunity said Tuesday.
The following requirements are listed as eligibility for state benefits:
- You must have lost your job through no fault of your own, so you must not have quit for personal reasons or been terminated for misconduct;
- You must be totally or partially unemployed;
- You must have a minimum amount of wages earned in what is called the “base period,” which is the first 12 months of the past 15 months from when you filed your claim;
- At the time you apply, you must be able to work, available for work, and actively seeking work, unless otherwise exempt from this requirement. This includes being physically able to perform a job and having child care if necessary.
Regarding next steps, a Department of Economic Opportunity spokeswoman said on Tuesday, April 28 that almost every Floridian should reapply if they were deemed ineligible.
Melissa’s career in writing started more than 20 years ago. Today, she lives in South Florida with her husband and two boys.