Florida’s unemployment processing website CONNECT is offline until Monday, according to a post from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, adding to the stress of Floridians attempting to check on the status of their applications and payments.
Since March, Floridians unable to work due to the coronavirus have struggled for weeks attempting to receive benefits from the state due to the troubled website and application system.
A message for people attempting to access the unemployment claims portal known as CONNECT reads: “CONNECT is currently processing payments. We apologize for the inconvenience. CONNECT will be available at 8:00 a.m. Monday, April 27.”
The website directs anyone who needs to file for unemployment assistance to download one of the paper forms or visit the mobile-friendly website. The new mobile site is for applications only, CONNECT is still required to process applications and distribute benefit payments.
Orange County has the third highest rate of unemployment claims filed, according to the DEO dashboard, with 6% of its 762,000 labor force applying since March 7. Hardest hit by the coronavirus in Florida, Miami-Dade and Broward counties have the highest rates of unemployment in the state.
As of Thursday, nearly 22% of more than 701,700 unemployment claims have been paid by the state totaling $157 million, according to the DEO.
This week the DEO began approving claims from independent contractors, gig-workers and self-employed individuals who qualify for federal unemployment benefits under the CARES Act.
The current Florida unemployment website was put in place under former Gov. Rick Scott, costing $77 million. On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis it was “not a good investment for Florida.” Since March, Florida has spent more then $120 million to fix the problematic website and call centers, DEO spending records show.
“This thing was a clunker, there’s no doubt about it it was designed to fail basically I think,” the governor said of the Florida unemployment website.
DeSantis said Florida has issued almost 200,000 payments to unemployed Floridians but to make that happen it took “all kinds of engineering” and working with the federal government to verify social security numbers. More than 2,200 trained workers from other Florida agencies have been pulled into to process applications, according to the governor.
According to the DEO dashboard, more than 153,000 claims have been paid.