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Florida makes improvements to unemployment benefits website, phone line

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Posted at 10:10 AM, Apr 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-06 19:29:07-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Major improvements have been made to make it easier for Floridians to file for unemployment benefits, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Monday.

"This virus has rocked the economic foundations of our state and our country," the governor said during an economic roundtable in Tallahassee.

WATCH NEWS CONFERENCE:

FULL NEWS CONFERENCE: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis talks unemployment impact on coronavirus

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus | We're Open South Florida

DeSantis said Florida's Claims Assistance Center received 3.8 million calls last week, and the state's CONNECT website has been overwhelmed with traffic.

That's led to many Floridians being unable to access the website or phone system.

"We are in a situation where people have lost their jobs. They're looking for relief, and they are having a lot of difficulty," the governor said.

To fix those difficulties, DeSantis said that Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity added 72 servers to increase capacity on the CONNECT site.

"The system can now handle up to 120,000 simultaneous connections by individuals filing claims," DeSantis said. "Recently we've been in the 40,000 to 60,000 connection range."

Those servers will not only prevent the website from crashing, according to the governor, but they will also improve the speed of the site.

"The latency on the website used to be as high as 72 seconds. Now it's less than one second," DeSantis said.

The governor added that 250 additional staff members started taking calls at the Claims Assistance Center on Monday, and another 500 are being trained to take calls starting on Tuesday.

"That's 750, and we may increase even more from there," DeSantis said.

Nancy Bink of Royal Palm Beach said she tried getting into the CONNECT website at least 20 times over the weekend before finally having success on Sunday morning.

"Just persistence. Just keep going and going and don't give up," said Bink. "You gotta be persistent to get through."

Bink compared the feeling of getting into the site to being a kid at Christmas.

"I was excited!," exclaimed Bink. "You gotta remember that it will happen. It's just gonna take time."

Susan Rothman, an unemployed worker from Delray Beach, said she is still trying to file a claim.

“I can’t get through to the website. I tried on the phone. I got through and they disconnect you, three times,” said Rothman. “It’s no better today than it was yesterday or the day before or the week before.”

To apply for unemployment benefits in Florida, click here or call Florida's Claims Assistance Center at 1-800-204-2418.

If you are having trouble accessing the online application, click here to download a Florida Reemployment Assistance Application and mail it to the following address:

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
P.O. Box 5350
Tallahassee, FL 32314-5350

The entire state of Florida is now under a "stay-at-home" order until at least April 30.

Residents are urged not to leave their homes unless it's for essential services or activities like going to the grocery store, gas station, health care facilities, pharmacy, or child care centers, among others.

RELATED: What Florida's 'stay at home' order means for residents

According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, there are more than 13,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, along with 236 deaths.

As of Monday evening, more than 111,000 Floridians have tested negative for the virus.

Here are the cases in our viewing area:

  • Palm Beach County: 1,000
  • St. Lucie County: 82
  • Martin County: 60
  • Indian River County: 55
  • Okeechobee County: 3

For the latest information about coronavirus cases in Florida, click here.