As Florida’s unemployment system continues to frustrate workers laid off due to the coronavirus, the state is about to enter phase two of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ reopening plan, which includes bars and entertainment venues.
On Thursday, the Florida Department of Health reported 1,419 new cases of the respiratory illness and 41 new fatalities. The new numbers bringing Florida’s death toll to 2,607 and the numbers of infections since March to 60,183.
This week Florida has reported an uptick in new cases each day. On Monday, Florida DOH reported more than 600, on Tuesday the number doubled. The new cases also depend on the number of tests administered per day but the state doesn’t release private lab testing in its overall total so that percentage is difficult to determine.
DeSantis announced phase two while in Orlando Wednesday; the state has been in phase one since May 4 but the governor has lifted restrictions that weren’t originally part of the first phase, including opening salons and barber shops.
All Florida counties, except Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, enter phase two on Friday. Click here to see what changes.
“We started with phase one about a month ago but we only did the 64 counties, excluding the three large southeast Florida counties and the reason why we did that was those southeast Florida counties represented I think at that time about 60% of all the cases hospitalizations and fatalities, they still represent the bulk of those," DeSantis said Wednesday.
Testing continues around the state as the Florida continues to reopen. Many sites are offering free COVID-19 tests, including at select Publix and Home Depot locations.
The day after Orange County officials revealed the county saw a 97% drop in tourism tax dollars from hotel stays in April due to coronavirus closures, the area could begin to see a slow rebound as Central Florida is preparing for the opening of Universal Orlando to all guests Friday at half capacity. SeaWorld and Walt Disney World have also announced opening dates.
The state is hoping to welcome major league sports to Orlando, including the NBA and MLS, which will bring an influx of tourism dollars back to the area.
Here’s a breakdown of coronavirus numbers by county in the Central Florida region:
Meanwhile, the state’s unemployment system continues to fail Floridians still waiting on benefits. News 6 has spoken to many who have yet to see a single payment after being furloughed.
Nationally, the total number of people who are receiving jobless aid rose slightly to 21.5 million, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, down from a peak of nearly 25 million two weeks ago, but still at a historically high level.
Here are some things to know about Florida’s unemployment benefits:
- The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, which handles the state’s unemployment system, is now distributing benefit payments every two weeks instead of weekly.
- People must log into CONNECT to claim their weeks, as long as they are unemployed, in order to receive payments.
- This week Florida began administering aid to those who were unemployed prior to coronavirus-related layoffs, known as Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or PEUC.
- As of June 2, the last time the DEO dashboard was updated, more than $1.8 million unique claims have been filed in Florida for benefits. According to the state it has made more than 1.1 million individual payments totaling $4.1 billion.