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DeSantis: DEO 'Looking At' Retroactive Unemployment Benefits For Claims Delayed By System Crashes

Wilfredo Lee
AP Photo

As state officials have scrambled to fortify Florida’s overburdened unemployment system, Governor Ron DeSantis says retroactive unemployment benefits may be in the works. State law says those seeking assistance can only get checks sent to them from the time they filed claims – but widespread system crashes have prohibited many from doing so.

The Governor says he’s spoken with the Department of Economic Opportunity’s director about the idea of retroactive benefits.

“What I’ve told Ken Lawson is, if someone was trying to apply, like last Wednesday – and the system wasn’t really working, then I think you should count that as the day (they applied),” DeSantis said during a press conference in South Florida Wednesday. “So, he’s looking at how that will work. But I think that’s a reasonable accommodation.”

Earlier this week, DeSantis announced an effort to beef up staffing and tech capabilities in an effort to allow for 120,000 connections to the system at once. More than half a million claims for unemployment assistance have been filed in recent weeks.

Florida Democrats haven’t slowed down calls for the Governor to fix the beleaguered system – that includes the state’s Democratic congressional caucus.

Congressman and former Florida governor Charlie Crist is asking DeSantis to increase the amount of money Floridians can receive from unemployment benefits. Currently, the state offers a maximum of $275 a week. Crist says that puts Florida’s unemployment payments among the lowest in the nation.

“We’re offering this suggestion to quickly and easily reduce the strain on our out of work Floridians by using the powers the Governor currently possesses to increase Florida’s unemployment benefit," Crist said. "In fact, governors in Georgia and Michigan, which have similar authorities, have already taken this action.”

Crist also believes the length of time someone is eligible for benefits should be extended. He worries once the federal stimulus of $600 for 16 weeks runs out citizens will be stuck relying on just the current state benefits.

Meanwhile, the Department of Economic Opportunity quietly launched a new unemployment assistance website Wednesday, with some features aimed at streamlining reported problems with its previous site.

Democratic State Rep. Anna Eskamani took to Twitter to say she tested out the new site, writing: “the process to create an account seems much more streamlined - a good sign of necessary improvements for some.”

It can be accessed at www.FloridaJobsResources.com

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.
Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.