Bewildering computer crashes and glitches for those in Florida seeking unemployment benefits
Here's why there's a backlog of claims for unemployment and why it's only getting worse. USA TODAY
2020年欧冠赛程表Diane Eyles is among the countless thousands of out-of-work Floridians tormented by a flawed unemployment compensation application process. It’s been five weeks since her last paycheck.
2020年欧冠赛程表A cancer survivor, her employer-provided health insurance expired May 1 and now she fears she will miss the deadline to continue coverage through the federal COBRA program.
She looks out at her driveway and wonders whether the bank will repossess her car.
2020年欧冠赛程表And a former credit counselor, Eyles braces for her credit score to tank in the economic meltdown provoked by the coronavirus.
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Eyles is 62-years-old and worked as a Capital City Bank manager before joining Goodwill Industries six years ago as a donation-procurement specialist. But despite her time as an executive, she said she can’t figure out how to file a claim through the Department of Economic Opportunity Reemployment Assistance CONNECT program.
“You’re dealing with a loss of a job. You’re cooped up in the house. You’re trying to get bills paid. It’s exhausting because you really can’t get anyone to help you,” said Eyles, Friday.
She was counting on the $600 weekly federal pandemic unemployment compensation to make it through until she was called back to work but first she must qualify for state unemployment compensation.
2020年欧冠赛程表A Flagler College graduate, when she discusses how many times the CONNECT system has crashed while she tried to fill out an application, it sounds like she’s talking about a weekend fling at the Daytona 500.
In the past six weeks Florida’s unemployment compensation system has been overwhelmed with 1.7 million claims submitted and 426,623 claims paid.
2020年欧冠赛程表The job losses in the last six weeks exceed that of two years of the Great Recession. Nationwide, a decade of job growth has been wiped out.
2020年欧冠赛程表Eyles has been working around trying to get an application through the system. She has wakened in the middle of the night, logging into the system at 2 a.m., thinking traffic would be light, but the system still crashed.
2020年欧冠赛程表She has waited on hold at a help center number for more than two hours only to have the line go dead.
“They just disconnect you. They just hang up on you. You don’t even get a chance,” said Eyles.
Once when she connected with a DEO staffer and was directed to a new web site. She re-started the process but then that site disappeared and it was back to the original CONNECT site where she restarted an application for a third time.
Last week, Eyles thought her persistence had paid off. She completed the application. But then when she checked on her status, she found she was listed as eligible but her application was inactive.
A call center staffer explained a glitch in the system flagged it. Although an executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis waived a bi-weekly requirement that applicants actively look for work, apparently the CONNECT program still requires it.
2020年欧冠赛程表“It’s no secret that CONNECT is not the world’s best, most effective system. It's just not a secret now or ever really. Connect has not been able to keep up with the governor’s orders,” said Tiffany Vause, DEO communications director.
Vause said because of problems with the software, DEO is manually pushing applications through the process so people can collect their state benefits and qualify for the federal payments.
DeSantis has listed getting unemployment compensation claims paid as his No. 1 economic priority. At a press conference Sunday in Daytona Beach, the governor said DEO is searching out cases like Eyles’ in media reports or social media and addressing them.
He has acquired 72 additional servers for DEO to handle the volume of applications, more than 2,000 state workers have been redeployed to help process claims, and three call centers have been set up to help applicants.
2020年欧冠赛程表Still problems and confusion persist.
2020年欧冠赛程表Vause explained that there are a multitude of reasons why an application like Eyles' may be ruled inactive.
Eyles said she was directed to file an appeal. When she sent it to the email address she was given, it bounced back because the mailbox was full.
“I’m like you gotta be kidding me. You hit a brick wall every time you turn around,” said Eyles. “What confuses me is that they had, I think, ample time to get something pulled together. It is a mess. Such a mess.”
That mess, said Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, is created by security concerns that she thinks should not be in place during a pandemic.
“There is so much emphasis on fraud here that it is ridiculous,” said Cruz, during a conference call about the situation. “There is not fraud going on here; there are people who are starving and they need to get their damn money.”
James Call is a member of the USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida Capital Bureau. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow on him Twitter: @CallTallahassee
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