coronavirus

Changes Coming to the State’s Unemployment Agency

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Governor Ron DeSantis announced he signed an executive order to assign more state employees to the Department of Economic Opportunity.

“It’s all hands on deck,” DeSantis said.

He said the executive order would deploy some of the state’s 25,000 workers currently telecommuting or in non-essential roles to assist the DEO with efforts to help those filing for unemployment including call center operations.

“We are in a situation where this system is not handling the needs of the people of Florida in an adequate way,” DeSantis said.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor last week 227,000 unemployment claims were filed. That’s up more than 150,000 from the week before. However, that number does not count the people who have attempted to apply using the state’s online portal - CONNECT - but have not been able to submit their application.

DeSantis said the DEO has received 2.1 million calls from out-of-work Floridians.

NBC 6 has heard from dozens of people who told us they have been unable to apply for reemployment assistance because they say the online portal crashes.

“Putting in my second employer I would just get an error message and it would crash,” Victoria Olson told us.

Olson tried applying for reemployment benefits earlier this week.

DEO Executive Director Ken Lawson announced during a town hall posted on Facebook that the agency is working on moving toward paper applications to help with online submission issues.

“I will ask our members to have that paper application so people can mail that in,” said Lawson.

He also announced he is signing a contract with a company to create a mobile friendly website so people can reset their own pin codes.

Pin codes are needed in order to begin an application using the online portal.

Of the phone calls they have received, he said a third of them are from people having pin code issues.

The NBC 6 Investigators found in an audit from Florida’s Auditor General the DEO was made aware of issues with the online portal previously.

The report mentioned “control deficiencies causing language translation errors on forms and documents” and it went on to say “incorrect error messages continue to exits.”

The Department of Economic Opportunity responded at the time by saying they would “address the appropriateness of error messages” and the project would be “prioritized to be completed in 2019.”

We reached out to the DEO to find out if the issues mentioned in the audit were fixed but our questions went unanswered.

Lawson did apologize during the town hall and asked for patience.

“For the next week or two, it is going to be difficult,” Lawson said.

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