How to file for unemployment benefits during coronavirus pandemic

Floridians unable to work due to COVID-19 can apply for temporary pay

Many people are unable to work due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. While there are state and federal measures coming to help those impacted financially, in the more immediate future people can file for unemployment benefits.

Many people are unable to work due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. While there are state and federal measures coming to help those impacted financially, in the more immediate future people can file for unemployment benefits.

The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday more than 74,000 Floridians applied for unemployment benefits last week, a tenfold increase from the previous week, as the spread of the novel coronavirus shut down the state’s theme parks and visitors stayed away from its hotels and airports.

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Across the U.S., nearly 3.3 million workers applied for jobless benefits-- - more than quadruple the previous record set in 1982.

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In Florida these benefits are called reemployment assistance and are designed to help people who are recently unemployed because they were laid of, fired or if they left their employer.

Persons who were furloughed or laid off due to COVID-19 should file for these benefits as soon as possible. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity released information about filing for reemployment benefits amid the pandemic. Click here for all the details.

Note: The website and hotlines in Florida are backlogged and many people are reporting hours-long wait times or they are unable to log in to file. The DOE is working to hire more staff and add more servers to handle the increased demand.

Who qualifies due to coronavirus, according to Florida Department of Economic Opportunity:

  • People who were ordered to quarantine by a medical professional or a government agency.
  • Those who are laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period by their employer due to COVID-19.
  • Those who are caring for an immediate family member who is diagnosed with the virus.

Here are the steps to file for reemployment benefits and what you will need:

  1. You will need: Social Security number, driver’s license or state ID, your past 18 months of employment -- including name of employer, separation reason, earnings and dates of employment. If you are not a U.S. citizen you will also need work authorization, military employees will need DD-214 member 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 and federal government employees need a SF 8 or SF 50.
  2. Your claim will then go to review to determine if you qualify.
  3. Following your application, applicants must login to the CONNECT system every two weeks to request benefit payment. You will receive a date at the end of your application telling you when to return to CONNECT.

The video below walks you through the process step-by-step.

What do the benefits include?

Eligible recipients can receive $32 to $275 per week, based on prior income.

Currently, recipients can receive benefits for 12 weeks, however, that is based on Florida’s unemployment rate prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. If the unemployment rate increases, the number of weeks will also increase.

Gov. Ron DeSantis could also take steps to extend benefits due to the coronavirus.

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Be advised: Expect long wait times

People who need help filing a claim due to disabilities or have questions can call 1-800-681-8102. Be advised, due to the high call volume because of COVID-19, applicants’ wait times may be long and the website may be slow.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Economic Opportunity said “all states are experiencing a high volume of calls and applications for Reemployment Assistance. 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.”

The Department of Economic Opportunity is working to hire more staff to mitigate the issue and best serve individuals and businesses impacted by COVID-19, Director of Communications and External Affairs Tiffany Vause said.

Additionally, the call center will be open 7 days a week, beginning March 21, and the agency will authorize overtime for its employees to ensure additional capacity to better serve Floridians whose employment has been impacted by COVID-19, Vause said in an email.

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