State working to improve response for those applying for unemployment

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News

So many people who worked at Bell Tower, and other stores, restaurants and businesses, are trying to file for unemployment benefits and can’t due to trouble with the phone line and website.

We talked with one woman who offered a bit of hope, as long as you’re willing to get up at all hours of the night.

Hundreds of thousands of Floridians have filed for unemployment since the COVID-19 outbreak; a majority of them in the hospitality industry.

We spoke with Susan Hronkowski last week after she tried and failed to get through on the unemployment website.

But on Tuesday, she said she finally made it.

“I got on the website at like 1 o’clock in the morning,” Hronkowski said, but she says she made hundreds of calls a day and sent several emails.

Not everyone has been that lucky.

So what is the Department of Economic Opportunity doing to improve their response to the influx of people filing?

“The system was overloaded, that’s clear,” said Lt. Governor Jeanette Núñez “Governor DeSantis has given the Director of the Department of Economic Opportunity the time to take the necessary precautions to make sure that he’s doing what he needs to do.”

In the meantime, Hronkowsi offers one piece of advice: “Well, definitely go and apply through the internet but do it at night where it just gets sent and, like I said, it crashed on me four times that night trying to get through, and keep your fingers crossed.”

Núñez told us in an exclusive interview that the state is hiring more people to help. Their priority is to get the website to be able to handle more people and to introduce a mobile app where people can also submit applications.

We are furiously trying to get additional people to tend to the calls and make sure that we have all the right measures in place for those people to be able to access the system,” Núñez said.

You can read the Department of Economic Opportunity’s full statement below:

On Saturday, Ken Lawson, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) signed an agreement with the US Department of Labor to execute the CARES Act in Florida. The team at DEO is working diligently to get the resources provided through the CARES Act to Floridians as soon as possible and will be providing more information in the coming days.

Governor DeSantis has already waived the work search and online work registration requirements for Reemployment Assistance while the state mitigates the spread of COVID-19. Individuals filing for Reemployment Assistance will not be required to register in Employ Florida or submit information on a biweekly basis regarding the employers that they contacted each week. Director Lawson is evaluating other opportunities to make the Reemployment Assistance program more streamlined while we mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

This week, Director Lawson and the staff at DEO are focused on enhancing our ability to serve more Floridians whose employment has been negatively impacted due to the mitigation efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Last Friday, Director Lawson signed a contract with Faneuil, a customer care and technical support company with the capacity to add an additional 250 representatives to the Florida Reemployment Assistance Call Center. A significant workload for the Reemployment Assistance team is resetting PINs for Floridians accessing the online Reemployment Assistance application, CONNECT. By the end of the week, a minimum of 50 Faneuil employees will be assisting Floridians in resetting PINs allowing them to access the online Reemployment Assistance application, CONNECT.

Additionally, DEO will also be adding a minimum of 50 additional employees to team this week and we are continuing to interview more this week.

Over the weekend, DEO made significant technical enhancements to the CONNECT system, including increasing our ability to provide on-site capacity through the installation and configuration of additional hardware that allows the application to serve more Floridians at once. Additional enhancements also include the ability to track and provide services for individuals impacted by COVID-19.

DEO is accepting Requests for Quotes from companies to provide a mobile friendly application for Floridians to apply for Reemployment Assistance on their mobile devices. We anticipate signing a contract this week.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is seeing historic increases in Floridians filing for Reemployment Assistance.

For the week ending March 21, Florida received 74,313 applications for Reemployment Assistance.

For the week ending March 28, Florida received 222,054 applications for Reemployment Assistance.

So far for the week ending April 4, Florida received 38,348 applications for Reemployment Assistance.

While we add people to the team, the quickest way to file for Reemployment Assistance is to apply online at and click on Reemployment Assistance.

We are encouraging Floridians who are filing for Reemployment Assistance to watch a short video before they apply and ensure they have the materials they need to complete their application. Click here for a direct link to instructions on how to apply for Reemployment Assistance and a short video.

As we mentioned last week, please remind your viewers:

If a Floridian’s employment has been negatively impacted as a result of the mitigation efforts in Florida to stop the spread of COVID-19, they may be eligible to receive Reemployment Assistance.

Individuals who are eligible for Reemployment Assistance may include:

Those who are quarantined by a medical professional or a government agency,
Those who are laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period by their employer due to COVID-19 concerns, or
Those who are caring for an immediate family member who is diagnosed with COVID-19.
Individuals whose employment has been impacted, but are still receiving wages through paid leave are not eligible to receive Reemployment Assistance.

At this time, individuals who apply for Reemployment Assistance whose employment was negatively impacted as a result of COVID-19 will follow the same application, review and payment process as all applicants for Reemployment Assistance in Florida.

We encourage any Floridian whose employment has been negatively impacted as a result of COVID-19 to visit and click on Reemployment Assistance Service Center to learn more about the program and watch a short video on how to apply. Click here for instructions on how to apply for Reemployment Assistance. Click here for a FAQ on Reemployment Assistance for individuals who have been impacted by COVID-19.

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