Almost every Floridian deemed ineligible for unemployment benefits so far should reapply, a Department of Economic Opportunity spokeswoman said Tuesday.
Nearly 268,000 Floridians have been deemed ineligible since March 15 — about 40% of all claims the state has processed so far. But most of those people are flagged as ineligible for state benefits, which are hard to receive and max out at only $275 per week.
In reality, those people are likely eligible for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits, which are $600 per week and apply to many more people, department spokeswoman Tiffany Vause said.
Those workers include gig workers, independent contractors, the self-employed, people who just moved to Florida, or almost anyone else who wouldn’t normally be eligible for state benefits, Vause said.
Any of those people who applied on or before April 4 should reapply regardless of whether they’ve received a response from the department. If they’ve applied on or after April 5, the state will be able to process their claim and they do not need to do anything, Vause said.
Vause said the state is informing people who were deemed “ineligible” that they might indeed be eligible. Rather than waiting for the department to contact the ineligible applicant — or trying to appeal your denied claim — those people should just apply again online at www.FloridaJobs.org.
“Going the reapplying route is going to be quicker,” Vause said.
Those people will not be penalized for reapplying, she said, and will still be eligible for the same benefits as before.
The reason for the mix-up is because Florida’s online unemployment system, known as CONNECT, has not been able to process claims for people who aren’t eligible for state benefits. That changed Tuesday, when the state announced it was able to process the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims.
The only people who are almost certainly ineligible are:
▪ People who did not lose their job because of the coronavirus
▪ People who quit voluntarily or were fired
▪ People who are on paid leave from their job
Nearly everyone else, including people who had their hours seriously reduced because of the coronavirus, should be eligible for some compensation, she said.
“The list is literally miles long,” Vause said.
The announcement wasn’t included in the department’s Tuesday news release. But the state published a chart this week outlining the process.
As of Tuesday morning, the state had processed 664,158 of 1,941,807 claims, one of the slowest rates in the nation.
The department’s website was down all weekend so the state could process more than 400,000 claims, by far the biggest three-day increase the state has managed so far.
The state’s unemployment website will be unavailable for all but new claims each night as the system undergoes maintenance and the state works on a backlog of claims, the Department of Economic Opportunity said Tuesday.
“DEO will be conducting nightly maintenance to the CONNECT [online unemployment] system to process claims and payments faster,” a news release from the department said. “CONNECT will be available from 8 a.m. to 7:59 p.m. daily. This schedule does not affect individuals that wish to file a new claim.”