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Jobless claims and applications for unemployment rise as the system fails

Posted at 11:16 PM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 23:16:49-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The website meant to help those who were laid off amid COVID-19 closures and furloughs is not user friendly, and some say the system in place at the Department of Economic Opportunity is putting their benefits at risk.

Last week, 6.6 million first-time applications for unemployment due to coronavirus were submitted.

Governor Desantis is waiving the required one-week waiting period before before you can collect payment.

"Every time I tried to click to the next thing, the page would reload and go to the beginning," said Hailey Frye, a resident in the Capital City and one of the many needing assistance during the pandemic.

Reloading in the middle of a claim is just one complaint Floridians have with the DEO's website.

Another complaint?

Claims like Ashley Weathersby's still read as "pending," when her first week of benefits is actually available.

Weathersby lives in Bainbridge and worked in Tallahassee.

"Once you're able to log back in, like last week I was able to log in to claim my first week benefit, it goes through the whole thing, you're half way through it, and then it logs you out so you have to start all over again," Weathersby said.

When making a claim, Frye says there is confusion over which options to choose.

For example, why are you asking for help? How do you prove you're looking for work?

"A lot of places aren't accepting interviews or applications," said Frye.

Weathersby says she's tried calling to get a real person on the phone, but that she waits for hours.

"The governor said they were hiring people to help speed up the process, and answer the phones," said Weathersby. "But there's no luck."

While many people temporarily unemployed have a possible return-to-work date, those dates are not set in stone.

"We were told 60 days, which would be May 8th, but that's if things improve," Frye said. "If they don't improve, I have no other income at all."

Weathersby also said the DEO website does not say how long people will have to wait to receive their benefits.

The maximum for unemployment benefits for one Florida resident is $275 a week.

The amount is based on your earnings, which could mean less than $275. Unemployment benefits last up to 12 weeks.