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New head of DEO working to revamp unemployment system, promises change

There’s new oversight at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity in an effort to revamp the unemployment system.

WINK News Investigative Reporter Sara Girard spoke with Sec. Jonathan Satter, the person put in charge of making sure people are getting the assistance they are applying for.

The governor asked Sec. Satter to get the results he wanted but wasn’t getting.

“Every morning I should know how many claims have been paid. Right now I can’t, it’s hard for me to even get those numbers and that’s unacceptable,” DeSantis said in a press conference on April 15, the same day he announced Satter’s new role.

WINK News Investigative Reporter Sara Girard asked: “What is it going to take to get to acceptable, and how long is that going to take?”

Satter: “The metric that we’re going to measure ourselves is how quickly we can pay Floridians.”

He also told WINK News he wants that to be no more than 15 days — application to check, which is what was ideal for the unemployment system before the pandemic.

“That’s when we’ll know we’ve succeeded. But until we get to that point, we are behind,” Satter said.

Tuesday afternoon, the DEO’s new online dashboard shows the state is still behind by a significant amount, with 668,000 claims submitted since March 15 and roughly 95,000 people paid.

Girard: “Florida is one of the slowest if not the slowest to get people their unemployment benefits in the country. What do you say that?”

Satter: “We’re going to bring that number up, I promise that. And quickly.”

That promise includes better communication with people like you.

“It’s just confusing. And then you can’t call anyone, there’s no point,” said Lizzie Blouir in an interview with WINK News in early April.

Girard: “Lizzie Blouir from Bonita Springs wants to know: People are not getting help with their questions, whether that’s through email, online with the website, over the phone. They’re not able to get through. Where is the communication between the DEO and claimants?”

Satter: “Yesterday [Monday] we received over 300,000 phone calls, we quite frankly don’t have the ability to answer all of those phone calls.”

“So if you go to floridajobs.org and download that FAQ, a lot of questions are going to be answered. Now are there specific claim questions? Yes, and we would encourage people to just be patient.”

We also asked your most burning question: When someone applies for their benefits, how long is it going to take for them to see them?

“I don’t want to overpromise and under deliver,” Satter said, but says he hopes to have it done as quickly as possible. “We’re hopeful that we’re going to get through the backlog relatively soon in the next 10 to 15 days.”

Girard: “So for people who’ve been pending for three, four, five, six weeks now, what can you say to them?”

Satter: “These are unprecedented times. I understand the uncertainty both from your health perspective and now your financial perspective. We’re doing the best we can. People here are not sleeping until we get the mission accomplished.”

Satter said he will be available and accountable. He told WINK News to keep checking in with him and bring him your questions, and he’ll do his best to provide up-to-the-moment answers.

UNEMPLOYMENT RESOURCES

Reporter:Sara Girard
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