Florida Lags Behind Other States in Administering Unemployment Help

Since March, out of work people have complained of issues preventing them from getting help during the pandemic

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Technical glitches, system errors, and slow processing of claims caused issues for unemployed people trying to apply for state reemployment assistance prior to the pandemic. 

But since March, out-of-work people have complained of issues preventing them from getting help during the coronavirus outbreak as well. 

Months after the pandemic first hit, the Department of Economic Opportunity is reporting 93% of unique claims have been processed. 

“Now it is approaching almost three months and I haven’t (received any claims), it says active but it is still pending,“ Amanda Ziadie said. 

Ziadie submitted her online application for unemployment benefits on April 26. Her status said active, but the monetary status was stuck at pending for months. 

According to the DEO, at least 180,000 claims must still be processed. 

“I have emailed the DEO about 100 different times just trying to get some information like what is going on,” Ziadie said. 

Michele Evermore with the National Employment Law Project says Florida has struggled to pay out benefits since long before the pandemic. 

“I would say that Florida, particularly in the beginning was one of the slowest states to respond to COVID-19 and one of the slowest states to start to process benefits,” Evermore said. 

Prior to COVID-19, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, just 11% of unemployed people were receiving state reemployment assistance in the last quarter of the year. 

During the first quarter of 2020, the data showed those receiving benefits was even lower at 8%. 

When it comes to processing claims, the DOL’s Labor Timeliness and Quality Data shows as of April 30, 2020 Florida was processing claims within two weeks just 36% of the time. 

The same data showed at three weeks claims were processed 70% of the time. 

Evermore says the DEO’s latest numbers show they are starting to catch up to other states when it comes to the processing of applications, but she questions why more people have not qualified for Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. 

“About 30% are being denied which seems high to me considering PUA was meant to sweep into eligibility everyone who isn’t typically eligible for unemployment insurance,” Evermore said. 

For a person to qualify for PUA, they must first be denied for state benefits. 

NBC 6 Responds compared how much Florida has paid out in PUA benefits to what other states with similar populations have paid out so far. 

According the the DEO, Florida has paid out roughly $249 million in PUA benefits so far. While California, Texas, and Pennsylvania have all paid out hundreds of millions more in PUA benefits than Florida. 

“For the last three months I have been living on my savings and eventually savings is going to run out and I am just hoping to get back to work,” Ziadie said. 

Ziadie didn’t find out she was eligible until we reached out to the DEO directly about her case, ending the months long delay in processing her claim. 

Florida is still one of the few states only reporting some but not all of the data related to initial claims filed for federal unemployment benefits to the U.S. Department of Labor. 

In a statement, a DOL spokesperson previously told us, “It is not unusual, however, as new programs are being ramped up that reporting lags implementation.” 

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