State officials have extended the waiver allowing unemployed Floridians to continue receiving benefits even if they aren’t able to search for work.
The Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) announced the move Tuesday. The waiver will remain in effect until May 29 and applies to all work search and work registration requirements.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and the DEO will also keep in effect a separate waiver removing the one-week waiting requirement to apply for unemployment after losing a job. The waiting week waiver is being extended even further, until June 26.
Several of the state’s unemployment mandates were put on hold last year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. With so many Florida workers impacted, state officials attempted to remove some of those barriers to receiving state support, even as Florida’s unemployment application system collapsed under pressure due to a surge in jobless Floridians. The problems with CONNECT, the state’s online portal for accessing claims, led to the departure of DEO director Ken Lawson last year. Former Rep. Dane Eagle has moved into that job since.
DeSantis has agreed to continue extending those waivers. And though the CONNECT system — Florida’s unemployment apparatus — has since improved, it’s still hit multiple bumps along the road, shutting down again as recently as mid-April.
DeSantis has highlighted Florida’s fairly strong economic performance during the recent stage of the pandemic. Still, the Governor has acknowledged that parts of the state are still suffering, as indicated by the waiver renewal.
The unemployment news comes as DeSantis extended Florida’s overall state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic. That order was originally issued in March 2020, and despite DeSantis’ push in recent months to reopen the state, he’s kept the state of emergency in effect. DeSantis has seen his national profile grow in recent months as he increasingly criticized lockdowns.
That emergency order will remain in effect another 60 days.
In order to claim unemployment benefits, individuals must still use the CONNECT system every two weeks to request that assistance. “In so doing, claimants will confirm that they are still unemployed and acknowledge that you are able and available for work,” the DEO explains.
Florida”s unemployment rate in March dropped to 4.7%.