TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – As many Floridians struggle with losing their jobs in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the state’s unemployment system has been unable to handle the number of skyrocketing claims that have been coming in.
Gov. Ron DeSantis addressed the issue in a news conference on Thursday, saying he signed an executive order to help with re-employment assistance.
“As many people know, this was a major jolt to the economy of the State of Florida,” he said.
The governor says in the past two weeks alone, there have been 348,511 claims for re-employment assistance. He says there were 307,701 claims in all of 2019.
“We’re in a situation where this system is not handling the needs of the people of Florida in an adequate way,” he said. “So we need to do more to get relief to the people of Florida.”
Gov. DeSantis says his executive order directs all agency heads to deploy employees to help with re-employment assistance operations, including in call centers.
“I think this requires all hands on deck. We have a lot of state government functions that are generally important but aren’t as important right now as what we’re dealing with,” he said.
The governor says he’s also been in touch with AT&T and Verizon about ways to set up calling to still practice social distancing.
“When you have these abrupt changes, to be able to just talk to somebody on the phone or submit something and know that it actually goes through – obviously you want to be able to get the assistance – but if you can at least have a system where people can get in touch with somebody, I think that would give people more peace of mind,” he said.
In addition to expanding on the call centers, Gov. DeSantis says he’s also looking to add alternative options of how people can submit claims.
“Because this whole web platform is overloaded, people should be able to fill out a paper application if that’s an option for them,” he added. “We shouldn’t limit how they’re able to apply.”
To help with the web platform, the governor says he directed state officials to purchase additional capacity software technology to help deal with the high volume of applications.
As they work to fix the system overload problems, Gov. DeSantis says he also wants to eventually speed up the processing of claims and is committed to adding manpower to make that happen.
LATEST ON THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC:
- Florida coronavirus: State reports 6,014 new cases, 132 new deaths
- Third stimulus check: Americans who make more than $80,000 may not get direct payment
- Super Bowl LV ‘wasn’t a super spreader’ event, Hillsborough Co. health officials say
- Hillsborough County expands vaccine eligibility at Ed Radice site
- White House COVID-19 team details Merck, J&J vaccine partnership