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'Virtual waiting room' confuses, frustrates unemployed Florida workers

Some people waiting hours to enter virtual room
Posted at 5:02 PM, Jun 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-03 18:07:02-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The frustration over Florida’s unemployment website took a new turn this week as people were sent into a virtual waiting room.

Susan DiGiovanni of Lake Worth found the changes this week when trying to get into the state’s unemployment website.

Thousands of people saw the virtual waiting room, which had a little man walking across the screen.

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“If I could give you all the questions that I have about this craziness I’ve been through since March 5, I should write a book,” said DiGiovanni.

She said at first she was dropped out of the waiting room and then waited about an hour again to get back in.

“You are in line and it’s a little virtual guy. And as he walks, your blue squares build up,” said DiGiovanni, who said she she spent about an hour in the waiting room.

Laid off since March from her restaurant job, she only started receiving benefits when she saw the new waiting room.

Amit Rampersad, a West Palm Beach disc jockey who has launched internet help for people having trouble with the state’s website, said the waiting room is designed to prevent the website from crashing. However, it still seems to be frustrating for many.

“They don’t like it because some people are waiting an hour, some people wait 30 minutes and some people are waiting two to three hours just to get in,” said Rampersad.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity said the waiting room is part of upgrades to the system, which seemed to frustrate hundreds of thousands of people since March when the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown resulted in huge job losses.

“With the system enhancements put into place over the last few months, CONNECT is now able to host 80,000+/- concurrent users and provide a positive experience for the users utilizing the system. The CONNECT Virtual Waiting Room allows claimants to reserve their place in line while other claimants access the system,” said an email update from the DEO.