Florida working to keep up with coronavirus unemployment assistance calls, applications

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity received nearly 5 times their average calls last week

In this Thursday, March 19, 2020 photo, this restaurant and others in The Villages, Fla., are closed due to the coronavirus through the end of the month. Living in what is perhaps the largest concentration of seniors in the U.S., residents had gone about their busy lives until this week,. (AP Photo/John Raoux) (John Raoux, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

If you’ve tried calling the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity this week or had trouble applying for unemployment benefits, you’re not alone.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Florida department that handles unemployment applications is overwhelmed with applications and calls as people unable to work because of the virus are filing for reemployment benefits.

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Persons who were furloughed or laid off due to COVID-19 can file for assistance, known as reemployment benefits, through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The department released information about filing for reemployment benefits amid the pandemic. Click here for all the details.

People across the state have reported issues while seeking assistance this week.

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Director of Communications Tiffany Vause said in an email that states, including Florida, are experiencing a high volume of calls and applications. There is currently an estimated one to two hour wait time for callers, Vause said.

“Many states across the country use the same provider for verification of information, although no system is prepared for the overnight increase in claims filed, this system is working, just slowly," Vause said.

For context: The week before many businesses closed due to government orders or our of COVID-19, the department received 28,000 calls over five days. In just four days, last week, the department received more than 130,000 calls, Vause said.

The department also saw an increase in reemployment applications this week.

To accommodate the increase in calls and applications, the Department of Economic Opportunity is working to increase its staff, hiring 100 people statewide to answer calls and walk people through the application process and to handle processing applications, Vause said.

The call center at 1-800-681-8102 is open 7 days a week due to the increase in calls, Vause said. The call line is open weekdays from 7:30 a.m. -6:30 p.m. and 8 a.m.- 2 p.m. on weekends.

For more information about filing for reemployment benefits due to the coronavirus, click here.

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