New resources, same problems as users struggle to file online for unemployment benefits

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Despite new resources from the state, Floridians are still facing the same issues while trying to file for unemployment benefits through the state’s CONNECT website.

The sheer volume of applicants is crippling the system as the website times out and boots off countless users trying to file a claim.

More than half a million Floridians have successfully filed over the last couple of weeks.

Because the website boots so many people off, the state is now allowing applicants to file for unemployment benefits through the mail. However, online claims are still recommended when possible because they are received faster.

Governor Ron DeSantis said Monday that 82 additional servers, 72 of which are already running should bring the system up to speed, along with hundreds of additional call center staffers.

But Tyler Horsley of Tampa hasn’t seen any improvement.

“It’s ridiculously frustrating, there’s just nothing you can do,” he told 8 On Your Side.

Filing for unemployment has become a full time job since Horsley was laid off from his job at a credit card processing company.

“You’ll sit back and get through almost the entire application,” he explained. “And then SNAP, it’ll shut you right out!”

Horsley says it took a week just to reset his PIN. He finally succeeded Monday, after waiting on hold for 5.5 hours.

Since then, he still has not been able to file his claim for benefits online the site has kicked him off more than 20 times. Even logging on at 3 a.m. didn’t help.

“I’m pretty persistent about things, but I can only imagine some people that aren’t,” he said. “What are you going to do? Half the people are going to give up.”

Similar complaints keep coming into the offices of local lawmakers, like State Representative Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa). Toledo is calling for an audit to see what went wrong at the Department of Economic Opportunity after the state spent millions on an overhaul.

“$75 million is a lot to spend on an upgrade, and the fact that it’s still not working concerns me,” she said.

State Senator Janet Cruz (D-Tampa) is flat out calling for the director of the DEO, Ken Lawson, to resign.

With a system that doesn’t work, and so many people out of work, Tyler Horsley is calling on leaders to get to work.

“Do your job. Fix it,” he said. “One way or another.”

Tuesday, Gov. DeSantis also revealed the state is partnering with Fed-Ex to allow those with connectivity issues to print and mail their applications in for free.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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