The coronavirus pandemic has caused millions of job losses nationwide. As unprecedented numbers file for unemployment, residents of Florida, the nation’s third most populous state, are finding that it’s essentially impossible to make a claim due to a faulty website.
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Although the problems are being exacerbated by the huge influx of applicants—a state record of more than 74,000, nearly double the previous record, applied for unemployment in one week in March—they began long before the pandemic.
In fact, state auditors warned Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) about the website a year ago. Their report further notes that the problems had been flagged by previous auditors every year since 2015. At the time unemployment was near historic lows, so fixing the website may not have been considered critical.
Whatever the cause, state officials appear to have done little or nothing to correct the problems.
Now that hundreds of thousands of Floridians are unemployed, that decision is having potentially dire consequences. The system is failing under the strain.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that people may experience a delay of up to several weeks to receive their benefits. Worse, some may be disqualified from certain types of federal relief if the website isn’t fixed in time.
Frustration and desperation are palpable in comments on social media.
“I can’t reset my pin! I have emailed you guys sent my Social Security card and drivers license about five times who is answering your emails,” one woman said.
“I need my pin I have no money I’ve been trying for two weeks str8 every hours and thousands of calls,” another person commented.
Last night, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity announced that the website was down for maintenance.
DeSantis issued a statewide shelter in place order today, which means many more Floridians are likely to lose their jobs and file, or attempt to file, for unemployment benefits in coming weeks.
The state has not announced when it expects the website to be operational.