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Florida representative gathering experiences with state’s troubled unemployment system

Rep. Stephanie Murphy wants to hear from unemployment applicants

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity launches website for unemployment benefits
Florida Department of Economic Opportunity launches website for unemployment benefits

ORLANDO, Fla. – If you are unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic and have yet to see payments from Florida unemployment benefits, you’re not alone. Over the past three weeks, more than 472,000 claims have been filed, and U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) wants to hear from Floridians about their experiences with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the agency that handles the state’s unemployment claims.

Murphy launched a survey this week to gather data on the state’s program, more than a month after residents began reporting issues filing for unemployment or getting through to the call center. She’s looking to hear from people who attempted to or were able to file for unemployment starting in February.

The DEO has been inundated with jobless Floridians unable to work due to the international pandemic. The agency has signed contracts totaling more than $119 million in three weeks to fix its broken website and all call takers.

Floridians who want to weigh-in with their experiences can fill out a survey at murphy.house.gov/coronavirus.

“This online survey will help me and other leaders understand what kinds of problems Central Floridians are facing and hopefully add additional pressure to state leaders to get the system fully functioning. Data is power, and I’m asking any Central Floridians who have interacted with the unemployment system since Feb. 1 to take this survey and tell me about your experiences," Murphy said in a news release.

According to Murphy, in the last 10 years the U.S. Department of Labor provided $1.6 billion to Florida to administer the program. Florida also received $60 million from the CARES Act during the coronavirus pandemic.

Murphy said she will share the data with the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, congressional leaders, Gov. Ron DeSantis, Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried and members of the Florida Legislature.

The Florida congresswoman also plans to publish her findings on her website.

Last week, Murphy called for an independent federal investigation of Florida’s unemployment compensation program in a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor.

In a letter, Murphy said the program’s “collapse” during the COVID-19 crisis was largely as a result of “flaws in the state’s online application portal that were once considered positive features by state leaders who were intent on establishing barriers to access.”

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