2,000 employees, new internet servers added to take Florida unemployment claims

3.8 million unemployment calls received in one week, governor says

As the coronavirus pandemic rocks the economic foundations of the nation, more people than ever before are out of work and looking for new employment opportunities. This influx of unemployed Floridians has caused a major upset in the resources put in place to provide relief.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday that steps are being taken to ensure that Floridians can file for unemployment benefits after the Department of Economic Opportunity had major issues supporting the volume of users.

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Sunday night into Monday morning, the DEO website shut down and did not allow any additional reemployment benefit applications to be filed.

“From August 2019 to February 2020 the contact center took a total of 2.3 million calls,” DeSantis said. “The DEO received 3.8 million calls in just last week. That dramatic increase in call volume has prevented people from being able to connect to DEO and then the flood to the website -- the website couldn’t even handle it.”

DeSantis said in response to the lacking system, 72 new internet servers were brought to Tallahassee from Orlando to increase capacity for the website. Before the additional servers were added, the website could handle up to 60,000 simultaneous connections, but will now be able to handle up to 120,000 simultaneous connections by individuals filing claims.

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More than 2,000 non-essential government employees who are not currently working in their usual roles have also been identified to be redirected to help the DOE handle calls regarding unemployment claims, the governor said. These employees will be trained to take calls from individuals looking to file for unemployment benefits.

According to DeSantis, 250 additional people began work Monday at 7:30 a.m. while an additional 500 people are being trained to begin work on Tuesday.

Paper applications have also been created for those who do not have internet access. Careersource Florida is working to ensure that these applications are accessible to people across the state.

The governor said he has been in contact with FedEx and is in the process of creating a potential partnership to assist with paper applications. FedEx may open physical locations so individuals can fill out the paper application in person, then ship that application to officials in Tallahassee overnight.

On Thursday, the director of the DEO publicly apologized to the thousands of Floridians who have been unable to successfully apply for assistance.

“From my heart, I apologize for what you’re going through,” Ken Lawson said.

A News 6 investigation found that in the past two weeks, the department has spent $25 million on improvements to the computer and phone systems it uses to collect unemployment benefits applications.

Other measures have been taken to lessen the blow of unemployment and other financial strain caused by the pandemic.

“Last week we suspended the foreclosures and evictions for people, we have also suspended the renewal requirements for professional licenses and drivers licenses, and then directed the Department of Transportation to expedite over $2 billion in infrastructure projects,” DeSantis said. “I have also directed the Florida Department of Revenue to be flexible with tax filing deadlines.”

DeSantis said he would be issuing an executive order Monday that would waive the collection of taxes of small business loans issued under the federal stimulus bill.

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