In 2019, the state of Florida handled and processed 307,000 unemployment claims. Just the last two weeks alone, just over 348,500 claims filed in.
As for calls, the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity fielded a total of 2.1 million requesting assistance last week.
With increasing unemployment numbers, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order on April 2 directing all state agency heads to comb through their workforce in an effort to bring more manpower to deal with claims at DEO. What began as a couple hundred claims quickly escalated into thousands of claims as the coronavirus pandemic shut down the state’s tourism sector and many small businesses.
“We’re in a situation where the system is not handling the needs of Florida in an adequate way,” DeSantis said in a press conference. “We need to do more to give relief.”
The governor recently brought on 100 new employees to work at a call center to support claims coming into the DEO, which issued a recent statement asking the public to “be patient as we take action to increase our ability to serve those whose employment has been negatively impacted by the mitigation efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
State agencies are currently working to figure out how they can bring more manpower to help those filing unemployment through the process. Many state employees are working from home, and DeSantis said he’s in contact with AT&T and Verizon to see how they could field calls from their home desks.
DeSantis said with abrupt changes, it’s nice for those who are filing assistance to talk to someone on the other end of the line.
“If you could have a system where people can get in touch with somebody, I think it will give people peace of mind,” he said. “We want the processing to be much quicker than it has been in the past, so we’ll put more manpower there as well.”