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DeSantis: Florida unemployment system gets a reboot as Covid-19 layoffs soar

Margie Manning

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The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has added dozens of additional servers and hundreds of temporary staffers for its overloaded state reemployment assistance program.

DEO added 72 servers to increase capacity over the weekend, and the system now can handle up to 120,000 simultaneous connections by individuals filing claims, Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a Monday morning briefing. In addition, most other Florida state agencies have ponied up to help, with some 2,000 state workers able to pitch in to process claims, DeSantis said.

The online system was overwhelmed with applications from people who have been laid off as a result of efforts to control the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus. DEO received 3.8 million calls just last week, and the website couldn’t handle the volume of requests. During the briefing, DeSantis said that was “totally unacceptable.”

He described one of the technology glitches that has since been addressed.

“When the system was designed, you usually build in redundancies to these things. There was a redundancy built in so that if the system went down, the backup would take hold and people could still use it. It turns out, that backup was never actually connected to the system. So last night they were able to actually connect the backup to the system, so that also gives added protection,” DeSantis said.

He also said latency – or the delay before a transfer of data begins – previously was as high as 72 seconds. Now it’s down to less than 1 second, he said.

Over 62,000 people had filed claims by Sunday night, he said. The previous week, there were 17,000 claims filed because the site was down more than it was up, DeSantis said.

The state is getting even more servers in anticipation of a bigger surge in unemployment claims, he said.

Hundreds of additional customer service representatives were trained over the weekend as well. About 250 people started working in the call center today, and DEO is training another 500 people today who will start taking calls tomorrow, he said.

The Florida Department of Revenue has made available 518 people who will be working on the final verification steps before checks are mailed out – a technical and complicated part of the process, said Jim Zingale, executive director of the state revenue department.

In addition, the state is making available paper applications, including working with private sector partners.

“This morning I spoke to Fred Smith (chairman and CEO of FedEx). I asked him could we use the FedEx office locations, where you guys could print the forms, have them ready for people, people could fill them out and you guys could just FedEx them every night to Tallahassee, and he said they’d be happy to help with that. We’re in the process of working on that,” DeSantis said.

The state expects to process 80,000 unemployment claims this week, DeSantis said.

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