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Despite Upgrades, Florida's Unemployment System Still Frustrating Jobless Workers

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) - When Florida's unemployment website CONNECT came back online Monday after a weekend shutdown for upgrades, about 40 percent who filed for benefits were denied by the state's Department of Economic Opportunity.

Many who applied in March continue waiting received notices, without explanation, that they were ineligible.

The agency released a statement Monday in response to those notices.

"There are numerous reasons someone could be deemed not eligible for state reemployment assistance benefits, including wage base period issues, lack of wage history, among others," according to DEO press secretary Paige Landrum.

Many who received notices that they were ineligible for benefits repeatedly tried calling the agency for an explanation, some making up to 150 calls over the course of the day, but were stymied by the automated system before it disconnected them.

System glitches on the CONNECT site also caused some of the rejections.

Some said they after filling out their applications and waiting for weeks, they were deemed ineligible. They were then asked to identify the issue that could be sent to a determination page, but there was no hyperlink to click on so that they could continue the process of appealing the agency's decision.

Another glitch was the site's work requirement factor, according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald.

Some were denied benefits because they did not list that they were looking for work despite that requirement being waived by Governor Ron DeSantis.

Many who have tried to reapply for benefits online said they managed to get to the last step before the site crashed and they had to start over again. After repeated tries, they were unable to reapply.

Without being able to get answers either over the phone or online as to why they were deemed ineligible, they said they are frustrated and demand solutions.

Currently, there are none.

Florida's unemployment system lags far behind other large states in processing and providing benefits. It was not prepared for the avalanche of claims filed by those furloughed or laid off because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The difficulties stem from former Gov. Rick Scott's administration which made the decision to make it difficult to collect unemployment benefits. They placed hurdles in the way of those looking to collect while encouraging them to find a new job.

The DEO said as of Monday, it had verified 824,412 unique claims and paid 392,051 claimants a total of more than $523 million.

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