TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida has paid out more money in unemployment claims over the last five weeks than all of the last four years combined, but tens of thousands of people applying for unemployment remained in limbo as of Wednesday.
“All of our phone lines are busy and we are unable to offer a callback option."
That line is quickly becoming a familiar sound to the unemployed.
Brooke Stanton said she has heard the message hundreds, if not thousands, of times. Her call log shows six calls were placed on Monday.
“To this date, I still haven’t spoken to a human being," Stanton said. I haven’t gotten through at all."
The man in charge, Department of Management Services Secretary Jonathan Satter, said he has about 6,000 people answering phones at call centers across the state.
"We tell people don’t call 108 times,” Satter said.
The state still can’t keep up with the call volume.
“Yesterday we had a million phone calls," Satter said. “We’ve had 15 million phone calls since March 15. We haven’t gotten to most of those. Most of those people are hanging up. It’s as upsetting to me as it to the callers.”
Satter said if people are calling about a claim, they should be prepared to wait longer than an hour. Monday, for instance, calls to check on claims were averaging an hour and 39 minutes. He said the best time to call is late in the afternoon.
As of Tuesday night, just under 200,000 claims were parked in what’s called a verification queue.
Stanton might be one of them because she has filed a duplicate claim after federal benefits became available.
“Because I am in a unique situation, I haven’t made a livable wage in two months because of this," she said. “And so, it’s just very frustrating.”
And while Gov. Ron DeSantis said great strides have been made fixing a broken system he inherited from predecessor and U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, he also noted there are still improvements that need to be made.
“Still to this day, glitches are being fixed,” DeSantis said.
But it is of little consolation to the thousands, like Stanton, who are still waiting for help.