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DeSantis Waives Unemployment Re-certification Rule, In Effort To Speed Clearing Of Massive Backlog

Wilfredo Lee
AP Photo

In an effort to speed the processing of an enormous backlog of unemployment claims in Florida’s system, Governor Ron DeSantis has waived a requirement that recipients recertify their status.

“So far, DEO has made 121,102 payments to Floridians in re-employment assistance, totaling almost $50 million,” DeSantis told media during Thursday afternoon’s briefing.

The Governor says those payments have gone to upwards of 33,000 out-of-work Floridians who applied following COVID-19’s devastating economic disruption beginning mid-March. There are hundreds of thousands more awaiting payment.

From that point in March to the first week of April, the state saw more than half a million claims filed, and since then hundreds of thousands more –meaning that number is nearing one million. Now, the state is trying multiple approaches to try and cut down on a growing backlog of claims.

“One of the things that was slowing up the claims is that there’s a provision in law that says you have to certify every two weeks that you’re unemployed,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis has waived that requirement in an effort to de-clutter the Department of Economic Opportunity’s overburdened system.

“If the system is suffering under too much stress, why would we want people to have to go on and recertify that? We know what the economy is doing right now. So I signed an executive order today,” he said.

The executive order will last as long as the governor’s COVID-19 state of emergency declaration is in place. The Governor also made a leadership change at DEO, bringing in the Department of Management Services director John Satter to helm all things unemployment at DEO.

Satter made his first appearance in his new role alongside DeSantis during one of the governor’s daily press conferences.

“We have thousands of state employees assisting in the effort, processing the paper applications that have arrived,” the new DEO unemployment czar told reporters. “We’re constantly making software upgrades. Technology, as you know, is a complicated enterprise.”

The state is also trying to facilitate federal assistance money going out, with DEO this week mailing about 20,000 checks for $600 through the CARES Act.