Florida contends with soaring unemployment claims

Gov. DeSantis says state received 21,000 unemployment claims on Monday alone

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The state of Florida fielded an estimated 224,000 calls last week to its re-employment hotline.

The Department of Economic Opportunity, the state agency in charge of job creation, has acknowledged it is overwhelmed and work on improving service is underway.

It comes as Florida deals with a rising unemployment rate that has typically been predictable — until now.

Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke candidly about the volume of claims Tuesday, saying there were “21,000 unemployment claims yesterday, 18,000 the day before."

Calls to the state’s re-employment hotline are up tenfold in two weeks. Wait times are running up to three hours if job seekers can get through at all. You can find more information here.

Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson knows things have to change.

“I want to tell the people of Florida that we are ramping up the number of people working in my call centers," Lawson said. “This is an unprecedented time with the incident affecting the world, our country and state.”

The governor, meanwhile, has lifted the requirement that job seekers must actively be looking for a job to receive unemployment assistance from the state. The maximum payout is $275 a week for up to 12 weeks.

“Once anyone’s form is completed, it takes a week to verify the information and the payment to kick in,” Lawson said.

There are jobs in Florida. In fact, there are several hundred thousand posted on the state website alone.

Jim McShane of CareerSource Florida said the outbreak is creating new opportunities in certain industries.

“The health care workers, they need more workers," McShane said. "There’s going to be a lot of quick training, trying to get people into that. I looked on the job demand today, and there’s everything from maintenance people to you name it.”

Because the state’s economy has been so strong for so long, the trust fund has enough cash to pay out over 14 million weeks of unemployment benefits.

Job seekers can contact CareerSource Florida, but all walk-in traffic has been suspended because of the health emergency.