WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The effort to recover jobs lost during the pandemic continues to be a major problem as coronavirus cases rise.
New figures released Thursday show nearly 1.5 million more people filed for unemployment benefits last week in the U.S.
Florida had an estimated 93,394 claims during the week that ended June 20.
Robert Ferrarie of Boca Raton thought he was still eligible for the federal pandemic unemployment compensation until he logged into his account on the state's website. That's when he was greeted with a message telling him to come back next year.
"When I filled out the application, it said come back in six months and two weeks," said Ferrarie, who said his state unemployment benefits have run out.
"I just exhausted the 12 weeks [of unemployment benefits] the state offered last week," said Ferrarie.
But the Jan. 5, 2021 date left him wondering: was he also done with the federal benefits that are due to expire in late July?
"How are you going to wait for six months to claim your next two weeks?" Ferrarie asks.
It turns out he won't have to wait. The future date appears to be another glitch.
"We have verified that claimants who are seeing this message are currently enrolled in the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program," wrote Department of Economic Opportunity press secretary Paige Landrum. "These individuals are still able to claim their current weeks and this message is not impacting payment to claimants. The Department is working on a solution to ensure the message is removed to eliminate any confusion," the email stated.
Job Outlook Rebounds In Palm Beach County
In Palm Beach County, the number of newly-unemployed workers seems to be slowing.
"It's down to about 5,000 or 6,000 people filing over the last two weeks, where before it was like 10,000 to 16,000, so that's more than cut in half that's great news," said Tom Veenstra of CareerSource Palm Beach County.
Veenstra said jobs are returning and long-term signs are looking positive.
"Over the last six months, the business development board just told us they attracted 18 new companies coming to Palm Beach County, that still will be coming, so that's encouraging," said Veenstra.
He said that's happening despite the recent spike in COVID-19 numbers in Florida. However, this creates worry in the short term for businesses like the hotel where Ferrarie works.
"I would think it would scare some people off," said Ferrarie.
"I hope we don't go backward, but the mask rules that have come out are just common sense. We should all be doing this, especially as businesses continue to reopen," said Veenstra.
Keeping businesses open and hiring workers while cases rise is an even bigger challenge in South Florida during the summer, which is traditionally slower for tourists.