ORLANDO, Fla. – Two state senators held a question-and-answer session Thursday to seek clarification from the Florida coronavirus unemployment response official, but instead, hundreds of frustrated people found themselves without asking questions.
The live Facebook hosted by Florida Senator Jason Pizzo and Senator Jeff Brandes was quickly inundated with questions in comments by Departmental Services Secretary John Satter, the man appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis to intervene and supervise the soaring unemployment in the state. About 1,200 people logged in to watch.
Since mid-March, Floridians unable to work due to the pandemic have had difficulty receiving unemployment benefits through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity CONNECT website or talking to a human because of the volume of calls and of candidates.
As of Wednesday, the WD had made more than 416,000 unemployment benefits out of the 916,000 unique claims submitted, according to the most recent figures from the WD dashboard. The state has paid more than $ 579 million in unemployment, more than half of which is funded by federal aid in the event of a pandemic.
The only takeaway from the Q&A was Satter’s remarks on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for those filling out 1099 tax forms such as contractors or concert workers, and he explained why those who were told to ask Floridajobs for these benefits .org could not find the request because the state is not ready to process these benefits.
“We are building the system to be able to accept these requests because they are federal dollars,” said Satter.
He said it could take another five to seven days before PUA requests could be processed through the DEO CONNECT system.
Earlier this week, WD posted information on its website telling those declared ineligible that they could claim a PUA or benefits under federal CARES law, however, according to Satter’s statements, State is a week away from being able to process all PUA apps, which is why frustrated Floridians can’t find the app on Floridajobs.org.
More than 266,000 people have been declared ineligible and may be eligible for federal benefits, according to the WD dashboard.
Satter also explained how the state plans to honor retroactive payments for people who were unable to apply earlier due to website issues, but the fix is also not ready.
The secretary said they were working on a way for people to pre-date their candidacy when they would have applied if they could get into CONNECT.
“If you were trying to access the main system when the system started to have problems in mid-March, you would be able to attest that you tried to access and did not succeed, you can backdate, “said Satter, adding,” We’re building the tool to allow people to do it. ”
Again, no timetable was proposed for when people could see these retroactive payments.
News 6 has received hundreds of calls and emails from people who are still waiting for benefits and spend hours a day trying to get answers or figuring out how to apply for a PUA.
To help manage the influx of calls and requests, WD has recruited contractors for $ 120 million and, according to state expense records, has over 2,000 state employees other agencies also process requests.
Satter said the best number to call for questions is 1-833-FL-APPLY (352-7759) and said late afternoon calls could ease long callers’ waiting times. Many comments on Facebook live indicated that they were calling this number and were disconnected or that the person they spoke to had no answer.
Before the end of the question and answer session, Satter stated that he had offered a promise.
“I can’t express this enough, hold us accountable,” he said. “It will take us a while but we will get there. “
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