JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WFLA) – Gov. Ron DeSantis called for an investigation into Florida’s unemployment system on Friday as hundreds of thousands of Floridians wait for help.
The state’s unemployment system has been plagued with problems since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and was even named the worst system in the country.
“It’s been very difficult, we’ve worked extremely hard on fixing a very broken system that you had with unemployment,” Gov. DeSantis said Friday during a news conference in Jacksonville. “We’re starting to get good results that I’m happy – we need to do more but we’re much better than we were a month ago.”
The state’s Department of Economic Opportunity added dozens of new servers to help improve its reemployment assistance program at the beginning of April. Florida also ramped up its call centers and introduced paper applications in hopes it would help people who were struggling to get into the system an apply.
“The system had a lot of problems. It couldn’t hold up,” the governor said. “I had to bring in engineers to effectively rebuild it.”
A revamped, mobile-friendly website was eventually rolled out, but even that was causing problems for Floridians. The old website was taken offline last weekend so the state could process more claims stuck in the backlog.
“I think you’ve seen a huge increase. If you go back four weeks, the system was in tatters. People couldn’t even get on,” DeSantis said.
As of this week, DeSantis says 416,000 unique claimants have been paid since the middle of March. That’s compared to 326,000 claims paid out in all of 2019.
Now the governor wants to investigate what caused the state’s unemployment fiasco.
“There’s going to be a whole investigation that’s going to need to be done about how the State of Florida could have paid $77 million for this thing however many years ago they did,” he said. “So there’s a whole bunch of problems.”
The system was implemented when Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) was governor.
“None of these systems were designed for this number of people,” Scott said Thursday. “You know the way it’s set up is the way it’s always been set up. People always had an obligation to look for work to the extent they can. And it was tough when I became governor and so we worked hard to make sure that people could get jobs.”
LATEST ON FLORIDA’S UNEMPLOYMENT PROBLEMS:
- Firm under investigation for Florida unemployment failures lands new $110M contract with state
- Polk man raises concerns over DEO security after reporting stolen unemployment benefits
- Florida unemployment recipients still seeking delayed, missing payments as federal program nears end
- Florida’s jobless rate improving, but for how long?
- Florida unemployment claims surge, some federal benefits soon to expire