Universal employees furloughed due to virus closures auto -enrolled in Florida unemployment system

Disney World furloughed workers also automatically enrolled in CONNECT system

FILE - In this Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, file photo, park guests relax and cool off with a water mist under the globe at Universal Studios City Walk in Orlando, Fla. Florida tourism officials say cases of the new coronavirus are having little visible impact on the state's biggest industry so far. Tom Schroder, a spokesman for Universal Orlando, said it is reinforcing "best-practice health and hygiene procedures" in response to the coronavirus outbreak and adding more hand sanitizer units to its parks. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File) (John Raoux, Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistribu)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Beginning on May 3, Universal Orlando part-time workers will be furloughed as the theme park is expected to remain closed due to the coronavirus until at least June, on Friday the theme park company confirmed those employees are being automatically enrolled in Florida’s unemployment system.

Universal previously announced on April 10 part-time workers would be furloughed beginning May 3 and all other workers would see their pay cut 20% beginning April 20. An exact number of employees who will be without pay was not provided by the company.

Walt Disney World has also furloughed about 70,000 of its employees who work at the Florida resorts and theme parks. Those employees were also automatically enrolled in the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s CONNECT system.

When asked Friday if furloughed employees would also be enrolled in the system a representative for Universal Orlando said, “Yes, this is happening now."

The representative did not respond to requests about how many furloughed employees were enrolled in the system.

The coronavirus has had a major negative impact on Central Florida’s tourism industry. Thousands of workers in Central Florida have been furloughed or let go due to coronavirus-related closures.

However, the decision to work with theme park employers to enroll workers into the overloaded Florida system caused frustration among the hundreds of thousands of Florida’s who have struggled since March to submit unemployment benefit applications at all due to website issues.

Adding to the stress of Floridians awaiting benefit payments, Florida’s unemployment processing website CONNECT is offline until Monday, according to the DEO.

Although auto-enrolling workers into the CONNECt system might eliminate the need for theme park workers to file for benefits using the state’s website or mailing paper applications, Gov. Ron DeSantis has insisted those workers will not receive benefit payments sooner than others.

“We are working with some of the really large employers (like Disney) that have announced furloughs to try and just get the data internally and import it because it takes stress off the system,” DeSantis said earlier this month. “But those folks would not be at the front of the line. The people that applied first are going to be at the front of the line.”

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.

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