Florida's Unemployment Debacle

Posted on Apr 23, 2020

Since the COVID-19 Pandemic started in early March, there have been about 1.8 million unemployment claims processed (source). Transversely, only about 116,830 claimants have been paid. This means that only about 6.65% of those who have applied for unemployment in Florida have gotten anything.

Further, up until the 20th of April, Florida was not one of the states that you could receive retroactive payments – meaning, you start to receive assistance from the date that they accept the claim, not the date that you were unemployed. (Florida has since changed this to allow the payments to be retroactive).

Florida’s Unemployment Insurance portal – Connect – is a windows ASP application, probably running on Windows server 2008. Claimants have experienced issues with connecting, issues with session persistence, and then issues with mitigating the byzantine work requirements: even though the Governor of Florida has eliminated the Work Florida and job search requirements, in order to request benefits, you must login to the Connect Florida, submit five different people that you’ve communicated with – per week – for each week that you’re claiming unemployment. With a broken website.

I recently watched a friend do this over zoom recently. It took him approximately 45 minutes per week. Fourty-Five minutes of waiting on a website, hoping that his session doesn’t time out, entering in information multiple times (because, when it times out, you lose the data – and have to start over from the beginning).

Employers are upset – they have paid into this system for years, but when their employees truly need the help – because they have zero money coming in, including the $600/week stimulus money that the federal government has been giving the states to include won’t get paid until Florida approves the claim.

Former Employees are upset – they have no way of knowing where they are in line, no way of knowing when their benefits are going to be paid, and no way of calling and asking someone what the hell is going on – the phone lines are busy from the moment they open, until the moment where the call queues stop taking calls.

The worst part of all of this?

It is by design – courtesy of the former Governor – that the UI process in Florida is this complicated.

If there’s one thing that I hope this pandemic brings to America, it’s a sense of social welfare – understanding that those who ask for help from the government are usually only looking for help because they have nowhere else to ask for.

Nobody wants to be fighting a broken system for hours every day to try to get benefits. Nobody wants to wait a month+ to receive assistance – especially when those in the service industry are living basically paycheck to paycheck or on tips. Finally, nobody wants to be sitting at home doing nothing: sure, there’s a bit of relaxation, but, it’s soon followed with feelings of anxiety and nervousness. People have student loans, car payments, rent payments…and those aren’t stopping just because COVID-19 hit.

I hope that Florida can fix their system soon.