Ron DeSantis encouraged by unemployment progress
Ron DeSantis.

Ron DeSantis
The Governor touted the rising number of payments.

The state’s unemployment portal has been a thorn in Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ side as the self-induced COVID-19 recession left 1.4 million Floridians jobless.

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic’s economic effects, Florida ranked as one of the worst states for distributing unemployment benefits. But the Governor was eager to discuss the Department of Economic Opportunity’s (DEO) current state of affairs Tuesday when asked by reporters.

“Aren’t you amazed at how much money we’ve spent, we’ve paid out?” DeSantis said. “Last time you asked me that in this room, we hadn’t paid out very much. What are we at? Definitely 6, 7, 8 billion even.”

Between March 15 and Monday, the state has paid a combined $7.2 billion to 1.5 million claimants. Most of those claims started rolling at the end of April after weeks of holdups.

Another 120,000 claims are currently being verified.

Even as the state is processing more claims, problems persist with the department’s help call line. DEO outsourced its customer service effort to several call centers staffed by employees who, at least at first, didn’t have access to the tools they needed to help inquiring Floridians.

“Those folks at DEO, they have personally called and brought people through the process,” DeSantis said. “When different media folks have said ‘I have ten names of people that have complained to us,’ we’ve taken the names, given it to the agency, and they’ve gone through and really vetted it.”

That marked a different tone than when hundreds of thousands of Floridians were struggling to get paid and DeSantis pulled DEO Secretary Ken Lawson from overseeing the system, instead putting Department of Management Services Secretary Jon Satter in charge. The Governor has called for an investigation of the $77 million unemployment portal commissioned under former Gov. Rick Scott.

Florida has paid out more claimants than there are claimed unemployed Floridians in part, the Governor said, because the state’s count includes gig workers who applied for federal benefits through the state portal.

In May, the unemployment rate reached 14.5%, even as businesses began reopening. Since June 5, the Sunshine State has been on Phase Two of the reopening process, which allowed certain entertainment businesses to open at 50% capacity.

Even as Florida has seen an increasing number of new COVID-19 cases, DeSantis has said the state won’t roll back that reopening progress.

“I’m just glad that we’ve been able to pay out an awful lot of money,” he said Tuesday. “Obviously we’re going to keep doing that as long as folks are unemployed and eligible. I hope we’re going to continue to put people back to work.”

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at renzo@floridapolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


4 comments

  • florida folks

    June 23, 2020 at 7:43 pm

    What a JOKE! these greedy bastards are collecting interest holding off paying all the needy people as LONG AS THEY POSSIBLY CAN COLLECTING MILLIONS IN INTEREST! I hope these guys are called out and held accountable! I have a feeling this will backfire on them as the people stand up and speak out.. this is unacceptable! profiting off the misery of desperate peoples money…

    • Just sayin'

      June 24, 2020 at 8:26 am

      “profiting off the misery”? LOL. You think DeSantis gets a cut of the alleged interest? A check every month? The interest is program income and has to be spent on program activities. Don’t confuse incompetence with malice.

  • DEO is a Fraud

    June 24, 2020 at 9:55 am

    I don’t know what the hell DeSantis & DEO talking about! I’ve been trying to claim for the past 2 weeks the 3 weeks that I have to claim by tomorrow or I lose them and the system is not letting me due to a glitch or an error from them!! They have made me apply 3 times since March!! And there’s A LOT of people not receiving anything! No way to contact them by phone, LOTS of emails sent. Finally someone called yesterday and said let me talk to my supervisor and call you right back. Never did. DEO-BIGGEST AND WORST FRAUD EVER!!!

  • Valerie Sprieser

    June 25, 2020 at 11:27 pm

    B S I’ve been unemployed since the middle of march. I applied for unemployment. I finally got 2weeks unemployment 2weeks ago but still
    0 CARE act money! Everyone I know has not received and CARE act money!!!!! DeSantis is a crook he’s banking the millions of CARE act money to balance his budget! Desantis is a crook! Stealing CARE act money from Florida families that desperately need it!!!!!👹

Comments are closed.


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