WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The number of unemployed claims filed by Florida workers continues to rise, and the state's CONNECT system was offline Friday.
Visitors to the website were greeted with a message that said "CONNECT is currently processing payments. We apologize for the inconvenience. CONNECT will be available at 8 a.m Monday, April 27."
The site then directs users to a page if they need to file a new application for reemployment assistance.
In order to maximize payments to claimants, the CONNECT system is offline and currently making payments and processing claims through Monday, April 27 at 8am. NEW claimants can file for benefits at https://t.co/cKaguOQSI0.#COVID19 #reemploymentassistance— Florida DEO (@FLDEO) April 24, 2020
As of Friday, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s website said 1.8 million claims after been submitted since March 15. On Monday, that figure was 1.5 million.
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However, the state says that claim number may be a result of workers filing multiple times.
The state said they have now paid 153,788 of the claims submitted, which is 21.9 percent of the total that have been filed.
On Friday, President Trump signed a measure into law that will allocate $310 billion in forgivable loans for small businesses to pay their employees.
After returning from Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel spoke Friday with WPTV about the new measure and how it is expected to help families struggling to pay their bills.
“Last night we put billions and billions of more dollars into a Payroll Protection Program for small businesses, and it’s going to enable small businesses now to hire back their employees and get a full credit. It’s a free loan from the federal government,” said Frankel.
The PPP program has received criticism from many small business owners who say banks took care of their big clients first. Frankel said those businesses who didn’t receive funds the first time around should be next in line and should check their status with their bank.
“There’s about $30 billion that are going to go directly to the lending institutions that usually cater to these small businesses who usually don’t bank with the bigger banks,” said Frankel.
Despite the state working to improve Florida's online unemployment system, residents are still venting their frustrations saying they can't access the site.
“I absolutely feel the frustration, and the pain of folks. They are right to be angry and desperate. Rent is due soon, mortgages are due, gotta put food on the table. My advice is just to be patient try again next week,” said Frankel.
Jana Kraust of Wellington said she has been out of work since mid-March, like most people who have tried to file for unemployment. Except right now, she doesn’t know if her application went through.
“I want to cry. That’s all I can do at this time, is just cry,” said Kraust. “I put my information in and low and behold, I’d go back in and its gone."
She said her calls in the last month have gone unanswered. Her daughter, a small business owner, has also seen no relief through her Payroll Protection program claim.
“I can’t pay bills. I haven’t paid my bills in two months now, and I’m getting a little concerned because it’s going to affect my credit, so I don’t know what to do,” said Kraust.
A report released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor, said Florida had the fourth highest amount of jobless claims during the week ending April 11.
The fields of construction, manufacturing, retail trade, wholesale trade, accommodation and food services, and health care and social assistance industries have been hit the hardest in Florida, according to the federal agency.