Ken Lawson says paper unemployment applications are coming as DEO website struggles continue
The deadline to submit applications for the $85 million Rebuild Florida Infrastructure Repair Program is extended for two months due to Hurricane Dorian, says GEO chief Ken Lawson.

Director Lawson
Lawson also said he's working to ensure residents can reset their pins while applying online.

Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) Executive Director Ken Lawson says his agency is working on providing paper applications to residents as a surge in unemployment applications continues to strain the DEO website.

Lawson made the remarks Thursday in a Facebook Live conversation with Sen. Annette Taddeo and House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee.

Floridians say they’ve encountered myriad problems with the DEO’s site as they try to apply for those benefits online. Taddeo asked whether those delays will cause Floridians to miss out on benefits.

“Will they go back to get their pay from the moment they lost their job so they’re not punished for the fact that it’s taking so long to get through their unemployment paperwork?” Taddeo asked Lawson.

Lawson said the agency is currently not able to pay out benefits before an application being approved. “They’ll get funds from when they filed,” he said.

But Lawson noted Gov. Ron DeSantis has waived other requirements for unemployment benefits and may be open to acting here as well. Taddeo said she would support such a move.

“I will be asking the Governor to backdate to the point you lost your job because I do think that’s not fair to the people who are applying.”

Lawson said residents being unable to change their pins has been a sore spot for the agency.

“Last week, I received 1.5 million calls. A third of the calls were for pin resets,” Lawson said.

“That’s one of the biggest problems I’m addressing immediately. This past Sunday, I signed a contract with a call center and we’re training that call center to handle pin resets. Also, I’m signing a contract this week with a company to create a mobile-friendly website so folks can use their iPhones and tablets to reset their pins and also eventually file an application. That will take a little time for the mobile site, but it will help alleviate the problem.”

Taddeo asked whether DEO is planning to allow paper applications.

“I think that would give them some relief,” Taddeo said.

Lawson confirmed that they are planning such a move.

“People can mail that in and then we’ll hire a company to scan that paper application in because I’ve got to be as creative as possible because of where we are.”

The meeting came minutes after an earlier attempt via Zoom was derailed due to trolls who hijacked the call. Taddeo addressed that as well.

“Let me apologize for the behavior of some people on this call that we had a few minutes ago,” she said.

Lawson then reiterated an apology he had made earlier for the agency’s repeated struggles.

“From my heart, I apologize for what you’re going through,” Lawson said.

“I do ask for patience. I know that patience is thin. But recognize that we are all in this together. And the 1,500 people who work for me at DEO are Floridians too who are hurting and afraid but are committed to serving our fellow Floridians.

Lawson said the economic downturn and the loss of jobs “was not caused by any of us. This is a virus that’s affected our world. But in our home and our lives, we need resources. We need to feel like we can count on the government.”

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected]


  • Nicki Wood

    April 2, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    I am a gig worker & I have been trying to get help to apply for days. As of today, I am now awaiting a 55 min. wait time they said to get a call returned. It is 4.5 hrs. standing by the phone. Does this count as a job standing by?

  • max

    April 2, 2020 at 2:36 pm

    the office is closed, no one answers the phones and the website is down all this during the mosrt critical time of need….and WE are looking for a job?

  • James Edwards

    April 2, 2020 at 10:38 pm

    Hello everyone, We need Florida to BACKDATE our unemployment claims, its not our fault that we can not apply online or speak to someone on the phone. Please contact the Governor, Senators, and other politicians & let them know they need to backdate our UI claims.

  • Vin D

    April 2, 2020 at 11:24 pm

    It ain’t happening. What call center? Not in this world, it isn’t. More bull from the state?

  • Cass

    April 3, 2020 at 8:19 am

    My fiancé has been trying to apply since this started. his pin needs reset and there is no way to generate a fresh application. We couldn’t pay our rent and our landlord is making threats now. Thank goodness I am still working- I am a state employee, but as a state employee I do not make enough to cover rent or living expenses. We have three kids and for the first time cannot financially support the house. The ball was seriously dropped. There is no way with Florida being a tourist area it was not anticipated weeks in advance there would be an issue. All one has to do is analyze and see what was occurring in Washington and plan for worst case scenarios.
    A few suggestions- remove the need for a pin so individuals can access their accounts. Enable employees to chat with customers to keep the lines of communication open. For future, have a self help line for password/pin resets.

  • Jimmy

    April 3, 2020 at 10:17 am

    Many other states have approved to backdate unemployment claims to the last day of employment. Its only fair to the thousands of Floridians who can not get through to apply or reset pins. At $275, Florida has one of the lowest payouts in the country, while being the largest in the country in many different economic categories. We need help now.

  • Kathleen Aldridge-Cooper

    April 3, 2020 at 11:23 am

    If going back to paper app. When does that come out and how ?????
    We the people Right
    They have no idea. Smucks !!!

  • andre

    April 3, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    There should be no unemployment issue. the government should have given every employer the Money to keep folks on the payroll for at least 8 weeks. Even when this crisis ends folk will still be scrambling for work. This is not socialist, this is invest our tax dollars wisely.

    Paper applications for a 77 million dollar system that’s worth a shit!

  • Mike

    April 3, 2020 at 4:56 pm

    My filing has been “pending” for 12 days now. The site crashes constantly and good luck reaching a person when trying to call in. More frustrating is a letter I received from D.O.E. stating that until my “identity has been established” they cannot make a monetary determination!

    I’m already in the system from claims a couple of years back. My social hasn’t changed nor my birthdate nor my address. Nothing. That brings me full circle trying to CALL someone to explain.

    In the meantime – furlough = no money.

    I just wrote the Governor and essentially defied him to call and get a human. Maybe more should flood his office with comments?

  • Jim Chatwin

    April 4, 2020 at 6:23 pm

    You and your website are a piece of crap!!!! spent last 4hrs to get to the final step and your crap website crashes for the trillionth time @#$#@!!

    Your DEO is going to cost people a lot of damage for being unable to perform.

    Sleep well Ken Lawson…..and your cronie one and done Ron DeSantis!!

  • Karen S Trigger

    April 10, 2020 at 4:07 pm

    I was finally able to submit my application two weeks ago but it still says processing, now I’m about ready to claim another 2 weeks. when will Florida finally start sending out the unemployment money? Let alone the additional 600 a week federal money? I’ve been unemployed for a week now and need some money

Comments are closed.


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