By Sunday, Florida processed more than 281,000 claims and verified and paid unemployment benefits to nearly 220,000 more people than it had by Friday, according to the latest report from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
With a downward revision in the number of total claims submitted [because of duplicate claims identified,] that means the state of Florida now has managed to process more than a third of all the 1,880,343 reemployment assistance claims it has received since the start of the coronavirus economic crisis on March 15.
In another way to measure the state’s progress in getting unemployment money out to Floridians, 824,297 applicants have been confirmed as unique claims. Of them, 79% have been processed, and 47% have been paid, according to the latest figures posted through the DEO’s Reemployment Assistance Claim Dashboard.
The state has managed to send unemployment compensation checks to 386,926 people. That’s about one check for every five applications that have been received and approaching half of the applications that have been confirmed as unique claims.
Through Sunday, the state had paid out $497,8 million in unemployment benefits, according to the DEO dashboard. That’s nearly half a billion dollars.
The weekend progress was made in part because the state shut down the Department of Economic Opportunity’s troubled CONNECT website on Friday, effectively giving state officials a chance to catch up on processing claims they already had in hand.
The 35% of claims processed and 20% of claimants paid are achievements that likely remain painfully low for many unemployed Floridians. And the state’s unemployment compensation system remains under fervent attack by critics, for failing at a most critical time, an economic crisis.
Over the weekend Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy released a survey her office had conducted of 8,200 Floridians. It reported that 97% of them had applied for but not received any benefits, and 98% of them had bad experiences working with the state’s application system.
Yet the increases over the weekend also support DeSantis contention that rapid progress now, finally, is being made.
On Monday in Tampa Gov. Ron DeSantis again blamed his gubernatorial predecessor, now U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, though not by name. He called the program Scott developed a clunky system requiring massive, on-the-fly reengineering just to work properly, let alone to handle the enormous flood of claims that have poured in since the state’s economy began shutting down in mid-March.
“This was a system that was not designed for this,” DeSantis said the day before in Orlando. “They spent $77 million on something that’s really a flawed product.”
He said that while the fix is taking many weeks, it is taking less time than he feared.
Through last Wednesday, more than five weeks into the crisis, only 12% of claims that had been submitted had been processed, and less than 7% had been paid.
So far, 23,105 claims have been flagged as possible fraud, roughly 3% of those that have been processed.
The worst-hit counties for lost jobs in the past six weeks are Monroe, home of the Florida Keys, and Osceola, home to much of Central Florida’s tourism workforce.
Through Saturday, 3,926 people in Monroe County have had filed initial unemployment claims. That’s 8.4% of that county’s workforce. In Osceola County, 14,884 people have filed. That’s 8.1%.
The next highest percentage of newly unemployed is found in Orange County, where 6% of the labor market filed for unemployment, followed by Broward County at 5%.
Most claims have come from Miami-Dade County, by far the state’s most populous. The state has received 66,842 applications from Miami-Dade residents, 51,981 from Broward County residents, 45,871 from Orange residents, and 33,423 from Palm Beach County residents.
Part of the holdup between processing an application and verifying it and cutting a check is not Florida’s fault, DeSantis insisted.
“This stuff is not just like the state does it. But the state has to check against federal social security, interstate wages. And those require running through a federal database,” DeSantis said in Orlando. The federal system is backed up, too, he said.
The Governor also suggested people are no worse off than if they had lost a job last year and applied for unemployment compensation through the CONNECT system.
“Normally if you were unemployed, you’d have to wait. You’d have to look for jobs. You’d have to do all that. We waived all that,” DeSantis said. “So in a typical time, even if there were no problems with the system, you’re looking at at least four weeks.”
This story was updated to reflect new information posted late Monday afternoon by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.