Florida’s unemployment system adds waiting room

Despite changes, the stories from frustrated Floridians remain the same

VIDEO: If you're receiving unemployment in Florida there are some changes to when you'll get paid.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you didn’t receive your unemployment check last week, you’re not alone.

A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, which handles unemployment claims, said the agency is shifting to a biweekly schedule in an effort to streamline outgoing payments.

“In an effort to get Floridians paid as quickly as possible, many claimants have received benefit payments weekly and at different times,” the spokeswoman said. “Moving forward and to streamline payments for Floridians, DEO will transition benefit payments back to a biweekly schedule.”

Anyone receiving those unemployment benefits has another two weeks before they must confirm they are actively looking for work. Gov. Ron DeSantis waived the work search requirement until June 13.

Perhaps the most apparent change to the system came in the form of a virtual waiting room now available through CONNECT, the state’s oft-criticized unemployment system. The DEO spokeswoman said CONNECT was designed to have 1,000 users online at once but, thanks to upgrades, it now has a capacity for 80,000.

"The CONNECT Virtual Waiting Room allows claimants to reserve their place in line while other claimants access the system,” the spokeswoman said.

If you’ve ever dealt with the unemployment system, half the battle is logging in.

But claimants tell News4Jax that instead of being kicked off the website right away, they now have to wait a few hours before they can login only to be met with the same result.

Tracy Pando is well acquainted with Florida’s unemployment website. She has been helping her son, Tristan, navigate it. She estimates the pair has spent 50-60 hours on the website over the last four months, much of which has been logging in and getting kicked off over and over again, or being greeted by a loading screen.

At the request of News4Jax, Pando tried out the virtual waiting room. After 45 minutes ticked by, she was told she was halfway through the wait, and that was just to log in.

“Who’s got time to do this all day?" Pando wondered, likening the tedious process to a full-time job.

She said her son has received four weeks of unemployment benefits even though he qualifies for four months. She said they just can’t get past the website’s technical issues to find out what needs to be done.

“We’re done with it,” Pando said. "I mean, it’s time to get on track from where it needs to be and I know there a lot of people in a much worse situation than we are, but it’s just the fact that we were promised this money, the government obviously did their part and now the unemployment system has let a lot of people down.”