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Florida’s unemployment system gets another fix

Margie Manning

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order that he said is designed to speed up payments for unemployment claims.

The order, signed Thursday, waives a requirement that applicants for reemployment assistance re-certify every two weeks that they are out of work. It follows other emergency actions by DeSantis to waive requirements that people must be out of work for one week before they apply for assistance, and that they show they have applied for five jobs.

Florida’s unemployment system has been overwhelmed with applications from people who have been laid off as a result of efforts to control the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus. The state earlier made technology upgrades to the unemployment system and brought in extra workers.

DeSantis also appointed Jonathan Satter, the secretary of Department of Management Services, to oversee the unemployment system.

“While there was certain things done to the website to allow people to submit their information more quickly, ultimately we need to get people paid. I’ve directed Secretary Satter that has to be the No. 1 priority,” DeSantis said at a Thursday news conference.

On Friday morning, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Florida’s unemployment rate for March was 4.3 percent, up from 2.8 percent in February.

In the four weeks ended April 11, 652,199 Floridians filed first-time unemployment claims, the U.S. Department of Labor said

Only a fraction of them have gotten checks, according to the numbers DeSantis and Satter offered at the news conference.

33,620

  • Individual Floridians who have received benefits since the crisis began

$50 million

  • Total of unemployment payments to date

80,000

  • Backlog of claims outstanding from people who had to re-certify (prior to the waiver)

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity also has mailed 23,801 checks for $600 each made available under federal legislation, DeSantis said.

“While we’ve made some progress in recent days it’s not nearly enough. We have an unprecedented amount of claims and we’ve got to work through them,” DeSantis said. “I told [Satter] to take whatever you need to speed this process along. We want to be sure people are getting their compensation  for unemployment. It’s a top priority of the state of Florida.”

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