ORLANDO, Fla. – The long wait for unemployment benefits in the state of Florida is the reality of a system that handles “thousands of claims every week,” according to the Department of Economic Opportunity Director Dane Eagle.
In an exclusive interview with News 6, Eagle said he has already hired 200 additional people to assist residents who have filed unemployment claims but he admits he is about to ask Tallahassee for more reinforcements.
“Each one of them aren’t going to be able to flip the light switch and get them their claim," Eagle said. “We have 100 more (employees) we’re going to ask the Legislature for this coming session.”
Eagle was appointed to take over the embattled agency by Gov. Ron DeSantis two months ago and since then has been working to improve response and investigate the much-maligned Connect system, the link used to file claims for unemployment benefits.
The former state legislator said while the unemployment claims are slowly going down, there were another 67,000 new claims last week.
“We tell them four to six weeks because that is maybe the average,” Eagle said. “But some of these cases do require a trained staff member and because of the workload and not having enough staff …it does take longer, so it’s not a pipe dream.”
According to the DEO, between March 15 and Nov. 8, an estimated 2 million or 97% of all verified claims have been paid at least once.
Data reviewed by News 6 found 55,000 individuals are on hold waiting for their first unemployment check and another 40,000 claimants are still waiting to be deemed eligible to receive benefits.
The DEO is preparing a special site for residents that have returned to work and either lost their jobs again or simply cannot get access to the benefits they should have received before they returned to the workforce.
“That’s one of those more complicated issues that we need to look into (to) make sure there is a wage determination and employee separation,” Eagle said. “It does take a little bit more involvement from us as an agency.”
Eagle advised individuals to make sure they are going into the Connect system because a simple adjustment could make the difference between getting a benefits check and not.
“A lot of times there is a message waiting for them in that Connect system and we need people to go in there as (a) minimum every 48 hours,” Eagle said.
If you have an unemployment issue email firstname.lastname@example.org.