A half-million Floridians applied for unemployment benefits last week, according to figures released Thursday, as a statewide task force continued examining when businesses shuttered and forced to lay off workers because of the new coronavirus can reopen.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported that more than 505,100 Floridians filed initial claims for unemployment benefits last week, pushing the state’s number of claims well past 1 million since businesses around the state started closing last month under lockdown orders from municipalities and then Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The number of unemployed Floridians could actually be much higher since problems with online filing have been widespread. The state's civilian workforce is about 10 million.
Officials have acknowledged that the Department of Economic Opportunity was ill equipped to handle the deluge of applications. As of Tuesday, 1.7 million claims had been submitted but only 679,000 had been verified. Because of the problems with filing, people may have submitted more than one application through multiple methods, the agency said.
As of Tuesday, around 16% of the confirmed claimants had been paid $143 million, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity.
Mike Rogers, 64, was fired from his part-time retail job last month and filled out his unemployment application the next day. It has been in “pending status” with no update or funds, and he says he and his wife have cut costs as much as they can.
“The worst part is that Gov. DeSantis cannot or will not give a straight answer," said Rogers, a Palm Bay resident. “One gets the feeling that nobody has a clue.”
Mark Green has worked since he was 14 years old. Nearly 50 years later, he has filed for unemployment for the first time.
“The first time in your life that you apply, and the entire system was designed to crash, which blows me away,” said Green, who has been following the issues with online filing. “Fix it. Just fix it.”
According to the Department of Labor, more than 186,000 Floridians applied for unemployment in the first week of April and 325,000 people applied the following week -- the largest increase in the nation. The second-largest increase was Connecticut, with 68 thousand additional applications.
The government said Thursday more than 4.4 million laid-off workers applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week as job cuts escalated across an economy that remains all but shut down. Roughly 26 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the five weeks since the coronavirus outbreak began forcing millions of employers to close their doors.
According to the Department of Labor, Georgia processed another 244,000 unemployment claims last week. In the five weeks since the crisis began, 1.1 million Georgians have filed for unemployment — more than one-fifth of the state’s workforce.