ORLANDO, Fla. – Two state senators held a Q&A Thursday in an effort to get clarity from officials who oversee the Florida coronavirus unemployment response, but instead, hundreds of frustrated people were left with unanswered questions.
Facebook was immediately guided by Florida Senator Jason Pizzo and Senator Jeff Brandes quickly swamped with questions in comments to Department of Management Services Secretary John Satter, a man appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis to step in and oversee the surge in state unemployment. Around 1,200 people watch to watch.
Since mid-March, Florida residents who cannot work because of a pandemic have struggled to receive unemployment benefits through the Florida CONNECT Department of Economic Opportunities website or talk to humans because of the volume of calls and applications.
On Wednesday, DEO has made more than 416,000 unemployment benefit payments out of 916,000 unique claims submitted, according to the latest figures on the DEO dashboard. The state has paid more than $ 579 million in unemployment, more than half of which has been funded by federal pandemic assistance.
One takeaway from Q&A is the Satter’s statement about Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for those who submitted 1099 tax forms such as contractors or show workers, and that explains why those who have been told to apply for these benefits at Floridajobs.org cannot find the application because the state is not ready to process these benefits.
“We are building a system to be able to accept applications because this is a federal dollar,” Satter said.
He said it could be five to seven days before the PUA application could be processed through the DEO CONNECT system.
Earlier this week, DEO released information on its website told people who were declared ineligible they might be eligible for PUA or benefits under the federal CARES Act, however, based on Satter’s statement, the state was within a week to be able to process any PUA application, which is why Florida people who frustration of not being able to find an application in Floridajobs.org.
More than 266,000 people were declared ineligible and eligible for federal benefits, according to the DEO dashboard.
The Satter also discussed how the state plans to honor retroactive payments for people who cannot apply faster due to website problems but the fix is also not ready yet.
The secretary said they were looking for ways for people to update their application when they would register if they could get into CONNECT.
“If you try to get into the main system when the system starts experiencing problems in mid-March, you will be able to prove that you are trying to access it and you cannot, you can resign,” Satter said, adding, “We are building tools to enable people to do that. “
Again, there is no timeline offered when people can see the ebb payments.
News 6 has received hundreds of calls and emails from people who are still waiting for benefits and spend hours a day getting answers or trying to figure out how to apply for PUA.
To help deal with incoming calls and applications, DEO has brought contractors to $ 120 million and counting, state expenditure records show, and more than 2,000 state employees from other agents are also processing applications.
Satter said the best number to call with questions was 1-833-FL-APPLY (352-7759) and indicated that calling in the afternoon might offer some relief from the long waiting time experienced by the caller. Many comments on Facebook live say they call the number and disconnect or the person they are talking to doesn’t have an answer.
Before the Q&A ended, Satter said offering an appointment.
“I cannot express this enough, holding us accountable,” he said. “We need time, but we will get there.”
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