WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Unemployed Floridians will once again have to prove they are looking for work to collect unemployment benefits.
The requirement was suspended last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the overload on the Department of Economic Opportunity CONNECT system.
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The work search requirement, which expired over the weekend, requires an unemployed person to log on to the CONNECT system and report five work search contacts.
The contacts include registering for work at a local CareerSource Center, completing job applications in person or online, mailing applications or resume and interviewing with potential employers.
To complete the work search requirement, those receiving benefits need to log on to the CONNECT system, click on request benefit payments and then complete the fraud acknowledgment page.
Claimants will then verify the payment information and then will be asked a series of questions that include the work search requirement. The question reads, "Did you look for work?"
At this point, those seeking benefits will be asked about the type of search completed.
Claimants will need to fill out the date, method of contact and employer, agency or website they used.
No more than five job searches can be entered, but if less than five are provided for the week, a new series of questions will be asked.
DEO's website states that failing to provide five job contacts per week could result in the delay or denial of benefits for the week. The only exception is in smaller populated counties, like Okeechobee County where only three job searches are required.
However, a notice on the website also says the work search requirement is active, but it will not affect benefits for now.
The change is bringing new challenges to those still out of work.
"Me and thousands of thousands of other people, we hit a wall," said Stephanie Donner of Boca Raton, who has been out of work since last spring.
Her job of supplying costumes for the cruise ship performances disappeared when cruise ships stopped sailing. Now, she's collecting $305 every two weeks and worries about what kind of jobs she needs to look for.
"I guess they want me to be a waitress," Donner said.
"I guess a lot of people are more upset about having to (list job searches)," said Amit Knightly, who has helped countless unemployed navigate the Department of Economic Opportunity website. "I get why they're doing it because they're trying to promote people going back to work."
Knightly said the best advice is for people to keep it simple on the website, and put the time in to fill out the requirement to keep receiving benefits.
"They want everything, so you basically have to apply for jobs, that's the truth. ... You have to apply," Knightly said.