Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order on Thursday that eliminated a requirement for people who qualify for jobless benefits to recertify their claims every two weeks.
“Even though I had told them to waive any needless bureaucratic rules, I had to today sign an executive order to suspend the need for people to return to the CONNECT system to recertify their unemployment status,” DeSantis said. “We understand what is going on with the economy now. We hope it’s short term, but clearly this is not something that if you look hard enough you’re going to find a new job.”
DeSantis added that the change will relieve some stress but isn’t a “silver bullet” to speed the process.
It's the latest change to the state's unemployment agency. The biweekly requirement has been reported by many as an obstacle to receiving benefits.
“They are not responding to emails, I am very frustrated because it feels like there is nothing I can do and no one offering any kind of solution,” Lucy Weber said.
NBC 6 spoke with Lucy Weber prior to the executive order. She told us she tried to fulfill the biweekly check-in requirement for days. She says the online portal showed error messages and booted her out.
“It puts everything behind, it doesn’t really do me good to say okay, six weeks down the line when we get this fixed you will get your money. Because I have bills to pay now, I have food to buy now,” Weber said.
Payments have been made to roughly 4% of the more than 800,000 people who have filed jobless claims since the novel coronavirus started closing businesses across the state.
DeSantis told reporters Thursday that checks have been sent to 33,623 people who have applied for benefits since the beginning of March through the troubled unemployment-compensation system.
With early qualifiers drawing multiple checks, about $50 million has gone out in state assistance --- in checks of up to $275 a person a week.
The DEO says between March 15 to April 15, 121,102 payments have been made to Floridians in Reemployment Assistance benefits totaling $47,544,993.
This information comes a day after DeSantis announced Jonathan Satter, the current Secretary of the Department of Management Services, would be in charge of the state's COVID-19 unemployment response.
The DEO also recently announced, so far, 23,801 checks for $600 have been mailed to Floridians for their benefits related to the CARES Act.
In a recent email from the DEO, they stated, "These checks were provided by paper to ensure they were distributed as quickly as possible. Floridians who received their $600 check will receive their state benefits for Reemployment Assistance via direct deposit or prepaid debit card based on their preference."
Despite these recent changes, some Floridians are still looking for help.
"I tried to apply again. I went on the website and tried like 20 times to call them," Hans Stahl said.
Stahl says he recently got laid off from his job. He says the online system won't let him update his benefits status from the last time he received unemployment.
"It's something neglected in the system, and I am sure other people are dealing with it," Stahl said.
Until this is fixed, he worries that he will not be able to receive unemployment benefits.
NBC 6 reached out to the DEO about Stahl's issue. They told us they are looking into it.
DeSantis said he will have his first meeting by phone Friday with a task force designed to help devise plans to reopen services and businesses across the state.
Members of the task force haven’t been named, but DeSantis said he wants proposals on reopening quickly.
“It’s not going to be something that’s going to take four weeks,” DeSantis said. “This is something within a three-to-five-day period, I want the best ideas we can get.”
DeSantis noted that President Donald Trump, who announced a similar task force this week, was looking at a phased approach to reopening parts of the economy. DeSantis has been acting in concert with the White House in response to the virus.