‘Did you vet them?’: Unemployment questions plague Gov. DeSantis in Orlando
Gov. DeSantis struggles with questions.

desantis, ron
DeSantis turned combative Monday when pressed on the state's failed unemployment system.

Local reporters continued to rock Gov. Ron DeSantis Monday on the question of unemployment.

The Governor, in Orlando Monday for an announcement about transportation, turned combative as reporter Greg Angel challenged him on the question of rejected applicants.

“Did you vet any of them? Did you vet them?” DeSantis said, asking the reporter to ascertain the validity of applicants’ Social Security numbers, even as most sources don’t send that information to reporters.

“We were in Tampa the other day, and one of the reporters said, ‘You know, I have someone here who has been unable to (get approved), filed them in mid-March,’” DeSantis said Monday while in Orlando. “So, it’s like, give us a name. We took the name, and it turns out the employer’s contesting it, saying that the individual quit.”

DeSantis, who intends to provide more information Tuesday on the state’s much-derided handling of jobless claims and the “common pitfalls” by applicants, made similar comments Friday while in Jacksonville, where he said, “nine times out of 10 the application’s incomplete.”

The Governor said it was the reporter’s “responsibility” to dig into the claims of people that they were being stiffed by the unemployment system, adding that the journalist was “not even investigating … just asserting.”

DeSantis added that 97% of unique applicants who met guidelines have been paid, a total of $2 billion out the door, and that many rejected applicants were from “other countries, other states.”

“You got a responsibility if you’re going to put that out to viewers to say that, ‘We’ve looked into it, the person submitted Social Security, the person is eligible,’” DeSantis told a reporter who claimed to have the names of 5,000 people who have been waiting since March for assistance.

But for DeSantis, Monday’s exchange was more of the same, with a similarly hard-hitting inquiry finding him Friday in Jacksonville.

David Jones of First Coast News noted that people he was corresponding with had been waiting since March for their checks.

“Who are these people?” DeSantis asked, adding that “99.999% of those folks have been paid” if they weren’t missing key information on applications.

DeSantis has consistently messaged around improvements to a system he has described as a “jalopy” that was “designed to fail,” and blamed the previous administration and Department of Economic Opportunity head Ken Lawson for the problems. Lawson is still employed by the department, though he no longer is handling the unemployment mess.

DeSantis, who has called for an investigation into the creation of the $77.9 million CONNECT system, which went live in 2013, noted at prior appearances across the state that the Department of Economic Opportunity would put an emphasis on checking the status of applications when forwarded by reporters.

Democrats have called for the investigation of CONNECT to include the handling of claims under DeSantis, as applications flooded the system when businesses downsized and closed as COVID-19 spread throughout the state.

The Governor has also called for state Inspector General Melinda Miguel to investigate problems with the system.

Despite efforts to fix the problem, the Governor’s team seems to be losing control of the narrative, accusing reporters and Democrats of being in cahoots.

Senate Democrats on Monday delivered to DeSantis’ office information about more than 1,000 applicants who have been waiting for unemployment benefits since March. The information included names and claimant identification numbers.

Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson said Democrats want to amplify the voices of people who have come to their offices and that playing blame games won’t help people trying to support their families.

“Rather than a smart sheet or a fax suggested by DEO (the Department of Economic Opportunity) in a tweet on Friday, our caucus took the people’s distress to the Governor as he requested last week,” Gibson said.

From March 15 through Sunday, the Department of Economic Opportunity had received more than 2 million applications for unemployment, of which about 1.3 million were considered “unique.”

___

The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


7 comments

  • Frankie M.

    May 18, 2020 at 12:29 pm

    They should’ve asked him about the 49ers playing in that monstrosity known as the swamp. That’s all he cares about these days. Unemployment questions are old and/or fake news.

  • Michele Davis

    May 18, 2020 at 12:59 pm

    The Governor apparently doesn’t have all of his facts straight I am not from out of state, all of my information is and was correct on my application.I never even started getting correspondence from unemployment until May 5 2020 and I filed on April 5, 2020 and furthermore they reset my date to 05/09/2020. I guess in order to keep from paying me any back pay.

    • Frankie M.

      May 18, 2020 at 4:36 pm

      #itseasierhere

  • Chapelle Bronson

    May 18, 2020 at 5:08 pm

    I filed in late March, my application was just approved on today. How ever I am not being paid for all of the weeks that entitled, he amounts are 745 from the state and 600 from the enhanced federal government.
    Are we not entitled to retroactive pay for all of the qualified week.?

  • M. Hanna

    May 18, 2020 at 5:21 pm

    Gov. DeSantis says “…it turns out the employer’s contesting it, saying that the individual quit.” Gov. DeSantis, Please reread the CARES Act. Employees who were forced to quit because they are primary caregivers to children who’s daycare or school closed are eligible for federal PUA benefits. Just because a person had to quit their job does not make them ineligible for benefits. Our calculations show over a million people in Florida are eligible for federal PUA benefits in the state of Florida, including gig workers, self-employed, part-time, just starting employment as well as primary caregivers. You have paid less than 50,000.

  • Kristina

    May 19, 2020 at 10:37 am

    They are not paying us the federal 600.00, most of those payments are 2-4 payments behind.

  • Steve

    May 19, 2020 at 2:17 pm

    I talked to an aid at DEO over the weekend and was told to apply for the third time. I was told that if I had reapplied using the new site mobile.connect that none of those applications were going to be paid until they were migrated back onto the connect site. Also, I bet when Desantis says everyone has been paid he is only talking about applicants that would have been eligible for state unemployment. Not the hundreds of thousands of gig workers who are eligible for the Cares Act.

Comments are closed.


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