Democratic Representatives slam Ron DeSantis over broken unemployment system
Rep. Lois Frankel leads a conference call, which included Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Ted Deutch, regarding Florida unemployment benefits.

Screen Shot 2020-04-07 at 11.27.56 AM
The Governor didn't break unemployment benefits, but needs to fix them, lawmakers said.

Several Democratic members of Congress lashed out at Gov. Ron DeSantis over Florida’s besieged unemployment system.

“Gov. Rick Scott broke the unemployment system intentionally to help unemployment numbers,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a West Palm Beach Democrat, “and Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican-led Legislature has refused to fix it.”

The state has seen a record number of applications come in for unemployment benefits as the economic fallout of a global COVID-19 pandemic ensues.

Wasserman Schultz was one of seven U.S. Representatives, all Florida Democrats, who called on DeSantis to address problems with the system by executive order.

Calling the benefits available through the state the “stingiest” in the nation, the members of Congress said he should lift the current limit on benefits from $275 a week to something closer to $1,000, which is more in line with an average Florida salary of $52,000 a year.

“Florida has one of the least supportive benefit programs in the country, despite having a relatively high cost of living,” said Rep. Lois Frankel, a Boca Raton Democrat.

The Representatives also want the period of eligibility changed from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. They noted that at the Congressional level, officials are already negotiating expanding a rescue package to deal with growing economic challenges wrought by coronavirus spread.

The officials also said DeSantis’ administration has consistently been unresponsive to requests from the Florida Congressional delegation to communicate.

Wasserman Schultz said her understanding is that’s a problem for Republican and Democratic lawmakers, though only Democrats joined on the conference call Tuesday. Frankel said she asked all members of the Florida Delegation to sign a letter demanding DeSantis take action.

“Understand, my feelings aren’t hurt,” said Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat. “I could care less about talking to the Governor today.”

But officials said communication has been sparse with leaders in the administration.

Rep. Donna Shalala, a Miami Democrat, said the Governor needs to be much more aggressive.

“If I was Governor, I would triple the number of people to process these claims,” she said. “There’s no resource problems. We have allocated millions of dollars to states to build up capacity to process claims.”

She referred to the $2.3-trillion CARES Act aimed at assisting states with economic challenges.

That effort passed on bipartisan lines in the Democrat-controlled House and Republican-led Senate, Representatives noted. But communication between Florida leaders and Congressional lawmakers has been more divisive.

“It’s so frustrating to work with the Governor’s Office,” said Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Miami Democrat. “They are not very cooperative. There is no clear and straight information.”

Frankel noted the “money is bipartisan,” meaning it was approved and doled out without concern if it went to Republican- or Democratic-led state governments.

Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Miami Gardens Democrat, said outreach into communities facing economic devastation was needed. She said the Governor’s office has agreed to send representatives into otherwise closed libraries to get paper applications to individuals.

State Sen. Lori Berman, a Boynton Beach Democrat, also participated in the call and said her office was helping distribute paper applications.

Many on the call acknowledged concerns with paper applications slowing processing and being less secure, but said at the moment the use of such application was necessary.

But, they argued, more should be done to make sure those claiming unemployment get needs me quickly, and that benefits need to extend back to when a job was lost, not when an individual finally could log into a broken website.

“Our Governor has the power and executive authority to do many things to help us with jobs,” Wilson said.

Wasserman Schultz, who also criticized DeSantis’ delay in issuing a statewide lockdown ordersuggested he has shown too much reluctance in making hard choices on behalf of the people of Florida.

“Why run for Governor?,” she said. “Maybe you should have run for a different job.”

Regardless, he has the job and officials said it’s time he provide leadership for the state and fix the unemployment situation quickly.

“He’s going to need to pull up his big boy britches and get to work,” Wilson said.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


11 comments

  • BeeKeeper

    April 7, 2020 at 2:37 pm

    These Democrat Reps are some of the worst in the Country. They have served in Congress for years, with very little to show for it.
    The unemployment system is not broken. The system, like most other governmental agencies, are being overloaded and crushed with the amount of claims.
    Everyone knows that these systems were never designed for the amount of claims coming in at the same time.
    The Democrats, instead of helping us get through this pandemic and economy breaker, are instead choosing to play the only game they know…politics.

    • No More Republicans !!!

      April 7, 2020 at 3:02 pm

      One of them there bees has apparently gotten into your bonnet, buddy! Why don’t you just move on over to Alabama and call it even.

      • BeeKeeper

        April 7, 2020 at 4:12 pm

        I have been in Florida much longer than any of them…and likely you…so, moving is for young people like you.

    • Paul

      April 7, 2020 at 3:53 pm

      Sorry, DeSantis had a detailed report handed to him months ago but decided to not bother to fix the system – apparently none of his wealthy contributors needed unemployment compensation so why bother to fix it for the rest of us. Scott would have been aware that the system was broken and just also decided to do nothing. Do you see a pattern here? Remember, next election do not vote for any Republicans.

      • BeeKeeper

        April 7, 2020 at 4:16 pm

        I really don’t believe your detailed report statement from many months ago, so if you point me to where it is, I would like to see it.

        As a former QB myself, I know it is a lot easier to do that job after the game, then it was during the game.

        So many experts these days, who know what to do…after the fact.

        I guess you know that a pandemic was coming, long before anyone else did.

      • Green

        April 8, 2020 at 9:14 am

        so Scott and DeSantis were handed a broke system to begin with? By whom?

    • Natalie Eastman

      April 7, 2020 at 4:43 pm

      The system was a broken glitchy piece of shit in 2013 when it first went live. Research it if you dont beleive me. We the tax payers paid over $63 million for that piece of shit system. Looks like Rick Scott hired a high school grad to build the site so it wouldn’t surprise me if he got some kick backs for that. After all he is responsible for the largest medicare fraud in US history. Not to mention the benefits only last for 12 weeks instead of the 26 weeks, what most states give. And it’s a pathetic $275/week! How can you bitch about representatives fighting for their constituents?

  • Jane

    April 7, 2020 at 2:53 pm

    If you can’t even get the $275 what difference will it make if you increase it. Fix the current issue first and get people verified

  • No More Republicans !!!

    April 7, 2020 at 2:58 pm

    Sen. Shouldabenafelon Scott is the prick who demolished the Florida unemployment compensation program as his first order of business as governor. Florida has the lowest payment, the shortest duration of benefits, and the poorest performance of any such program in the 50 states. And, only a very small percentage who apply actually qualify, and the average payment is $200 – for a maximum of 12 weeks.

    Republicans never have and do not now give one good damn about workers – and in the last 22 years of ruling Florida – they haven’t done one damn thing to benefit workers here, to diversify the economy, to raise workers’ incomes or benefits, or to bring better paying jobs to Florida. Republican politicos are nothing but the bootlicking handmaidens to Republican fatcats and monied special interests – and friggin’ DeSantis is one of the very demonstrable boolickers – witness his suck-o-phantic slavishness towards Scumbag #1, Dimwit Donnie Dolittle!

    Florida has become a full-fledged member of Jesusland – and is right “up” there with Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas as Red State cesspools.

    Florida Democrats absolutely need to dump trump on November 3rd – AND – need to pick up four seats in the Florida Senate as a brake on the scumsucking Republicans running this [email protected]

  • SAYNOTOSOCIALIST/DEMOCRATS

    April 8, 2020 at 9:39 am

    The complete meltdown of the Socialist comments is sickening. There is no system that was designed for the kind of unemployment we are seeing. To say that anyone is at fault, is strictly political game playing. Those of you Socialist/Democrats who throw blame at everyone, should get to look in the mirror more often. You may just see that there is a reflection of someone who had a crystal ball, that saw this coming years ago. And, if you are so smart and so prescient, why the hell didn’t you share your secret knowledge back then.
    It seems that silly season is once again upon us.

  • SAYNOTOFACISTS/REPUBLICANS

    April 8, 2020 at 7:57 pm

    The complete meltdown of the Fascist comments is sickening. Fascist Republican Rick Scott made changes to unemployment that made it more difficult to apply for benefits, and lowered the time period you can collect unemployment from 24 weeks to 3 weeks.

    All of you fascist republicans are evil wicked people who love corporations and a*s rape the people. If it were up to me I would lock you all up and throw away the key and outlaw the republican party.

    Your days in power are numbered. The republican party will soon be extinct. Forever.

Comments are closed.


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