Governor says ‘call’ for unemployment help; claimants say there’s no answer

Reporter: Sara Girard Writer: Jackie Winchester
Published: Updated:

Unemployment is top of mind for hundreds of thousands of people in Florida as the Department of Economic Opportunity scrambles to get payments out.

The DEO’s dashboard on Tuesday showed that more than half of claims have not been paid, and Gov. Ron DeSantis said the DEO is looking on social media and watching the news to see what claimants’ problems are so they can try to fix them.

One of the biggest problems WINK News has heard about from you: there has been no communication from the DEO.

DeSantis said Tuesday the state is in a “good spot” when it comes to processing unemployment payments.

“It’s obviously not done, but compared to where it was three or four weeks ago when literally you could pay like 1,500 people at a time a day,” he said.

Since March 15, the state has processed more than 735,000 applications, many over the last two weekends.

But people like Christine Laurenti remain frustrated and confused. She applied April 12 and is still pending.

“We don’t know what’s going on, and I can’t get through to anybody to talk to anybody to try to fix anything if they’re waiting on something from us,” Laurenti said.

At the same time, Secretary Jon Satter said Monday that the DEO has had to deal with thousands of applications with mistakes, where information might be missing or incorrect.

“And that’s where we have to go back and manually contact them. That’s the big lift that we’ve got right now,” Satter said.

In that same press conference, the governor pointed out that phone traffic has dropped since early April. He believes it’s because more people are getting paid.
DeSantis also reiterated that the state now has five call centers operating to answer questions about unemployment and 2,000 state employees redirected to process claims. He said claimants who have questions about potential issues with their application should double-check their application for errors and call the helpline.

Laurenti said she’s done that, and no one ever picks up, leaving her and many others in limbo.

“I have been calling. I’ve called every single number, and I just can’t get through,” she said.

WINK News has reached out to the DEO about this, but they have yet to reply.

This week, the state also filed its motion to dismiss a class-action lawsuit accusing the state of negligence and demanding benefit payments go out immediately.

The state said it has made significant progress with the website, processing claims more quickly, and if people don’t like their determinations, they are allowed to appeal.

Their motion will be heard on Wednesday.

For ongoing updates and information on unemployment, follow WINK News Investigative Reporter Sara Girard on Twitter and Facebook.

She also updates the FAQ: Unemployment Resources page as information is received.

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