Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has issued an executive order he’s hoping will ease the significant burden on the state department that handles unemployment claims due to the agency being flooded with inquiries from people who have been laid off as the country deals with the coronavirus pandemic.
DeSantis announced Thursday afternoon that he’s allowing agency heads to identify employees who can be deployed to help the Department of Economic Opportunity with answering calls and responding to claims from Floridians who need reemployment assistance.
“I think this requires all hands on deck,” the governor said, adding that he wants to be able to use all the existing manpower the state has.
According to him, the DOE has received 348,500 claims and 2.8 million calls in the past week alone.
Those government employees who are chosen to help the DOE by working at call centers or providing other services will not be required to perform their usual job duties. They’ll also receive expedited training, per the executive order.
In addition to the extra staff, the DOE is also being authorized to purchase additional capacity and technology needed to handle the influx.
Before the declaration was made, the DOE’s director publicly apologized to Floridians who said they’ve called hundreds of times and spent hours on hold only to still not be able to get through to a representative.
DeSantis said he doesn’t think the community need is going to slow down any time soon.
“I wish I could say that this is something that’s only going to last a couple of weeks but I think that this is not something you can just turn on and off an economy like this so we need to expand the capacity but just understand that this is a problem that’s going to be with us more than just a couple weeks," DeSantis said.
Recognizing the economic hardship placed on residents across the state, the governor also signed another executive order that suspends residential evictions and mortgage foreclosures for 45 days.
“Given the circumstances, I think those suspensions are warranted,” DeSantis said.
He also provided some clarity on what’s considered an essential activity under the stay-at-home order that begins Friday morning. He said everyone needs to make sure they’re following social distancing guidelines and avoiding mass gatherings.
Simply put, it’s less about what you do and more about how you do it.
“If you’re doing things that have a lot of contacts, then it’s not going to be OK,” DeSantis said.