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As Disney furloughs loom, few details emerge on unemployment auto-enrollment plan

Hundreds of thousands of Floridians still waiting on benefits

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – More than 24 hours after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a proposal to automatically enroll furloughed Walt Disney World workers in the state’s unemployment benefits system, few details about the plan have been released.

Until more information emerges, labor unions representing Disney employees are instructing members to plan on enrolling for unemployment benefits through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity on their own, either by logging on to the state’s website or mailing in a paper application.

More than 70,000 Disney cast members are scheduled to be furloughed next week, according to the governor.

DeSantis said his office is working with Disney to obtain employee data that could be directly entered into the state's unemployment benefit computer system, likely in the overnight hours.

State officials acknowledge the overwhelming number of Floridians applying for unemployment assistance has swamped the computer system used to process benefit claims.

Many applicants tell News 6 it has taken them days or weeks to successfully file an application online, followed by several more weeks waiting for confirmation that their claim was accepted.

DeSantis said after the state launched its new mobile-friendly website last week to accept unemployment applications more than 500,000 people applied.

Some believe the proposal to auto-enroll Disney workers will take some pressure off the state's overburdened system.

“(Disney workers) wouldn’t get any special place in line. Whoever has applied is going to go through that way,” DeSantis said Tuesday. “But I think when you know you’re going to have a massive amount of people (furloughed) from one employer, we can work with them and get it through the system. I think that will probably be better for everyone.”

Even if Disney employees do no receive benefit payments ahead of Floridians who applied for aid earlier, some do not think it is right that Disney employees could essentially receive a FastPass to avoid the troublesome application process.

“That’s wrong,” said Anthony Newton as picked up a paper unemployment at a CareerSource Central Florida office after giving up on the state’s overloaded website. “We should get it, too.”

Tina Roundtree, who was laid off from her job at Orlando International Airport, believes other large employers should have also been given the chance to auto-enroll workers in the state's unemployment system.

“They should have done it for more than Disney. That’s fair. That would have been fair,” she said.


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