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Florida announces unemployment changes amid ‘stunning’ jobless numbers

850,000 jobless Floridians wait for applications to be processed

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis announced an executive order Thursday suspending the biweekly “actively seeking work” reporting requirement of people claiming unemployment, saying that is one of the bureaucratic hurdles that have hampered the state’s response time during the coronavirus pandemic.

We are in a historic jobless crisis, which one economist calls the fastest moving recession she’s ever seen.

About 22 million Americas have sought unemployment benefits in the past month after 5.2 million applied last week.

More than 180,000 Florida workers filed claims last week. That raises the state’s total over a half million, with countless others unable to apply through the struggling system.

“It’s stunning,” says Grant Thornton chief economist Diane Swonk, “because it suggests that we actually lost almost all the jobs that we generated over the last 12 years of the economic expansion — in just four weeks.”

The governor admits that the systematic issues in receiving and processing claims mean not even he has a full handle on the big-picture impact to Florida.

“I’d like to be able to come out and say, X number of checks went out yesterday, X number of checks are going to go out by 5 o’clock,” DeSantis said. “And I don’t think that the response has been sufficient in that regard.”

DeSantis has stripped the Department of Economic Opportunity of its oversight role of the faltering online unemployment system, putting Department of Management Services Secretary Jonathan Satter in charge Wednesday.

“His mission is very simple,” DeSantis said. “Get assistance out as quickly as you can.”

The governor said that under normal circumstances it takes about three weeks for someone to receive an unemployment check after filing their initial claim. “And it’s been my judgment that that’s too long.”

Meanwhile, Miami City of Miami Commissioner Manolo Reyes is calling in the governor to retroactively compensate those who have lost their jobs during the health crisis, dating back to the day a job was lost.

With the online system failing so many in need, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez says his county’s libraries have handed out 80,000 paper unemployment applications.

Giménez said starting Friday residents can also come to one of the county’s 26 libraries to get an application for the SNAP food assistance program, the TANF cash assistant program and for Medicaid. Those will be available in English, Spanish and Creole.

Putting all these struggles into perspective: According to the Department of Labor, the advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 8.2 percent for the week ending April 4. The previous high was 7.0 percent in May of 1975.

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