NewsPalm Beach CountyRegion C Palm Beach County


Florida making progress in unemployment payments, but hundreds of thousands of claims remain

27% of claims were deemed ineligible
Posted at 2:54 PM, Apr 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-22 18:38:17-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Unemployment numbers for the state of Florida show 27 percent of claims so far have been deemed ineligible for reemployment assistance.

According to data reviewed by Contact 5 available on the Florida Department of Economic Developments unemployment dashboard, more than 52,000 of the 193,000 claims processed were denied, meaning those filers will not get unemployment benefits from the state.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity told Contact 5 that a "written determination will explain the reason" why each claim was denied to the applicant, and they can appeal the decision.

The dashboard notes those applicants may still be eligible for federal benefits under the C.A.R.E Act.

The state launched the dashboard as a new tool for users to track unemployment claims and payments on a daily basis, after seeing a massive spike in filings following statewide closures of non-essential businesses due to the spread of COVID-19.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity was overwhelmed by the number of unemployment claims filed in the wake of massive business closures and layoffs.

Records reviewed by Contact 5 show the state spent $77 million on the web-based claims management system CONNECT, which flooded with Floridians attempting to file for unemployment in March. Users repeatedly reported connection issues with the site.

This lead to an influx in phone calls to the state, records show the DEO was only able to answer about 2 percent of more than 27,000 phone calls in late March, with an average wait time of more than six hours.

This, in turn, led to the state spending up to $110 million on additional call centers to handle the volume of calls.

WPTV spoke with Jonathan Satter on Tuesday, the state's newly-appointed unemployment czar, tapped to fix the states claim system.

"I’ve been here since Thursday, we had 80,000 claims in one day," said Satter in an interview, adding "the system wasn’t designed for that. It’s a 10-year-old car that we’ve asked to drive the Daytona 500 multiple times without pit-stops."

The state is making progress. On Monday, WPTV reported only 6.2 percent of processed claims were paid, for a total of 40,193 payments.

Two days later, the number of payments has nearly tripled, to 108,216 payments, or 15.9 percent of processed claims.

“We are working non-stop, 24/7, to get them to the next stage of the claim to get their benefit paid,” said Satter.