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State Says It's Addressing Unemployment Website Woes

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday the state has dramatically increased the capacity of its unemployment benefits website.
The Florida Channel
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday the state has dramatically increased the capacity of its unemployment benefits website.

Florida has added capacity in staff and technology for its beleaguered unemployment website, which had problems even before an unprecedented surge of applicants thrown out of work by the coronavirus.

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Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday that the state had connected a backup system, added 72 servers and recruited hundreds of state employees from other departments to help the hundreds of thousands of people filing for unemployment benefits.

Most of those people have been frustrated with the problematic state website, which couldn't handle the sudden increase in traffic.

Last year, the state received a total of 326,653 applications for the benefits, said Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Ken Lawson. Between March 15 and April 5, 520,000 people applied.

"In less than a month, we received more applications than we did in a year," he said.

The state has also created a paper application and is working with offices to distribute it for those who don't have internet and printer access. DeSantis said he is also working with FedEx to have applications available at their offices, to be filled out and then sent to Tallahassee each night.

And DeSantis said the state is working with local governments to make the paper applications available.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in his daily briefing that paper unemployment forms will be available at 26 of the county's public libraries starting Wednesday. The forms can be picked up and dropped off between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily.

Every evening, the boxes will be retrieved and a worker, escorted by a county police officer, will take them to a Career Source office. Career Source is helping workers in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties complete applications.

To find out which libraries have forms, call  305-375-2665. In addition, Career Source will be available to help applicants reset their PINs between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily. For help, call  305-929-1547.

In Broward, the applications are available outside of CareerSource Broward career centers Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In Hialeah, starting on Tuesday, April 7, the city is opening four locations from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. where people can get applications and assistance. They are: Slade Park, Goodlet Park, John F. Kennedy Library and Babcock Park.

In Monroe, the applications are available outside of all public libraries, the Gato Building and Harvey Government Center in Key West, Bernstein Park on Stock Island, Big Pine Park and County Commissioner Michelle Coldiron’s office on Ship’s Way on Big Pine Key and at the Marathon Government Center.

Palm Beach County has not yet set up any public distribution of the applications by midday Monday.

"We're in an unprecedented situation," DeSantis said. "You look at any other economic dip that we've had — some of those are somewhat sudden but nothing is even close to as sudden as this."

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Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.