SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - In January, Florida’s unemployment rate was at a historic low of 2.8%. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is seeing historic increases in Floridians filing for reemployment assistance. This past Tuesday, more than 31,000 Floridians filed a Reemployment Assistance claim.
“For the week that ended March 21st, we received over 70,000 claims. So, thousands of Floridan’s are finding themselves needing reemployment assistance right now. We are doing the best we can to service as many citizens as possible,” says Tiffany Vause, who is the Director of Communications & External Affairs at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. This is a dramatic increase from the 5,325 applications for Reemployment Assistance that Florida received from March 1st through March 7th.
Janeen Hicks, who has recently been affected by the unemployment crisis, explains how a typical job search is becoming more and more challenging. “It’s bad enough just losing your job in general, but then losing your job in a time when no one is really hiring, and you have to work from home. You can’t really interview people unless it’s via FaceTime. And so, it becomes an even bigger challenge not only for people finding jobs, but for people hiring.”
Hicks was bringing in the most income for her family along with essential healthcare benefits, is no longer able to provide that. “It has become a crisis mode where we must decide to halt all activities, halt all spending, and find modes of conserving our cash.” She urges those in the same unemployment scenario to continue applying for jobs, and to look for ways to save money by any means possible.
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.
Governor DeSantis has asked to waive 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.
The recent spike in the amount of unemployment claims over the last two weeks has caused the unemployment website connect.myflorida.com to crash multiple times on those who are applying for Reemployment Assistance. “For the IT side we are adding server capacity every day and working with multiple vendors so that more people can get on to our website at once," says Vause. In order to make this an easier process for those who are filing claims make sure you have all of the necessary paperwork and documents at your fingertips before applying on the website.
The Department of Economic Opportunity is taking immediate action to increase our ability to serve the people of Florida during this unprecedented time. These actions include:
• Expanding the hours for the Reemployment Assistance Call Center, which is now available Monday – Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
• Increasing staff working on the Reemployment Assistance program, by re-tasking 35 current DEO employees to assist with Reemployment Assistance, and hiring more than 100 individuals statewide to help answer calls and process applications so that individuals can receive benefits as soon as possible.
Here is a link to job openings to help with calls for the that are being received. https://jobs.myflorida.com/go/Department-of-Economic-Opportunity/2817100/
• Working with DEO’s current vendor to expand capacity.
• Adding server capacity to the online application for Reemployment Assistance as well as working with external interface partners to increase capacity.