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Some early unemployment applicants still waiting as others receive benefits

As of Thursday, 17 percent of unique unemployment claims submitted in Florida have been paid, but the rest are left waiting.

What’s the holdup? And why are some people who applied later getting their money first?

“I have logged over 6,432 calls to DEO since March 21,” said Heather Dickerson.

The unemployment system is leaving her with more questions than answers.

“How are these benefits, these claims, being processed? What is the order? What is the logic behind it?” she asked.

Dickerson was laid off from her Naples restaurant job more than a month ago.

“Just the day to day. Food, groceries, that sort of thing. That’s hard, but then you add the bills on top of it. It’s tough.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis said on April 17 that people who applied first would see benefits first, and yet, “I’ve noticed that people who applied in early April are getting approved and actually receiving payments, but there’s people like me who applied in mid-March that are still pending and have not received any benefits,” Dickerson said.

One woman said on Facebook that she applied in early April and her application was approved in two days. She has already seen federal benefits.

The inability to financially plan moving forward, it’s scary. It’s very scary,” Dickerson said.

The DEO said Tuesday they want to have the backlog cleared in the next 10 to 15 days, but that isn’t fast enough for people like Dickerson.

“No, no. It would’ve had to have been yesterday to be fast enough,” she said.

As to why people who applied later are getting paid sooner, the DEO said it could be for a number of reasons, like an application is incomplete or an eligibility issue.

Either way, without being able to reach someone, people like Dickerson will have to keep waiting – and wondering – when their money will come.

Full statement from DEO:

There are several scenarios why someone who applied for benefits in April may receive benefits before someone who applied in March. A few examples include:

  • If an individual has applied for Reemployment Assistance in the CONNECT system previously, they have already had their identity verified in the CONNECT system. If an individual has never applied for Reemployment Assistance, their identity must be verified.  It is possible that someone who already has an account established in the CONNECT system may receive benefits before someone who has not previously received benefits, because they will not have to go through the identity verification process. 
  • Payments may also be delayed if an individual has provided incomplete information or information in their application that creates an eligibility flag that requires resolution.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity remains committed to providing Reemployment Assistance to eligible Floridians as quickly as possible.

Update:

Response from Rep. Dane Eagle and Rep. Michael Grant (4/23/20): “DEO maintains that applications are being processed in the order they are received. One factor is that companies that employ 1,000 or more employees can file on behalf of said employees. While this may help speed up the system, it may also result in some of those claims being processed ahead of others due to the “bulk” nature of the claims.

“Another factor may be paper applications vs. online applications. DMS Secretary Jon Satter (now overseeing Florida’s unemployment system) said:

‘We’re receiving paper applications simultaneously with electronic applications.’
‘Because many (paper applications) are in hand writing, we have to manually transcribe those paper applications into the electronic system and that’s what we have our state employees doing.’

“He estimates state employees are able to process five to six applications each per hour, up to 10 an hour.

“Lastly, previous claimants have already had their identities verified by DEO. First-timers have not. This takes additional time.”

 

 

For ongoing updates and information on unemployment, follow reporter Sara Girard on Twitter and Facebook.

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

Reporter:Sara Girard
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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