Q&A of the Day– Florida’s continued failures processing unemployment claims

Q&A of the Day –Florida’s continued failures processing unemployment claims

Each day I’ll feature a listener question that’s been submitted by one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Twitter: @brianmuddradio

Facebook: Brian Mudd https://www.facebook.com/brian.mudd1

Today’s entry: Hi Brian, just wanted to give you a little more information as time marches on for your investigation. I have had issues for the last 3 weeks or more following up with my Filing for unemployment. When I signed on the site Saturday, knowing it was offline for upgrades - the page was different and gave a new number. 1-833 353 6799, along with instructions you could call for information except for claim detail info, and after Monday you could call for detailed info also. I called the number this morning and someone actually did answer. However still no detailed info on pending claims and was told to call the main number. So when I did that, there now is a new recorded message stating we can not take your call at this time try again later, the only difference was the recorded voice was that of an English accented woman's voice.

Bottom Line: It’s always much harder to fix a broken system when you’re in a middle of a crisis. That’s exactly what’s happening here. It’s well - known Florida’s unemployment website was significantly flawed and its issues became the catalysts for numerous other issues. But there is so much more to the story. First, to address the inconsistencies you’re experiencing when calling the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Last week the state hired three different third-party companies to handle over flow phone calls to the DEO. While theoretically they’re all pulling in the same direction,it presents the opportunity for you to have four different types of experiences when calling DEO. Prior to the hiring of these companies only 2% of phone calls received during operating hours were successfully processed. The state issued guidance that 80% of all calls should be successfully processed with the additional capacity. It's too early to know if that’s been the case but it’s safe to say you have a much better chance of speaking with someone today compared to a couple of weeks ago. As for the bigger picture takeaways here’s what we know:

  • 14% of all claims have been processed & paid
  • Florida has been the slowest state in the country to process claims
  • The average turnaround time has been 5 weeks for claims to be paid

Here’s what that means to you. The claims which have been paid are those filed on approximately March 21st or earlier. If you successfully filed but haven’t heard anything from the state – that’s normal unless it’s prior to March 21st - and doesn’t indicate anything is necessary wrong – as frustrating as that may be. In addition to the failures of the original website, which was recently replaced by a seemingly stable system which can process up to 120,000 claims at a time, it’s clear the state needs to improve turnaround time generally. Florida averaged four weeks from the time of filing a claim until benefits are received – prior to this crisis. In other words, the failures at FDEO aren’t so much with the processing of claims, it’s only slightly slower than usual despite the record volume. What this crisis has done is to shine a light on an inherently flawed system. A flawed website auditors flagged for five consecutive years as a potential problem, but left unaddressed. A safety net program which takes at least a month to receive the initial assistance. No infrastructure to process a high volume of phone calls during a time of need. 

The good news, of this bad news story, is the transparency that’s been forced into this system. Out of necessity Governor DeSantis has already over hauled much of the DEO’s processing. A new website, overflow call centers, a new department head and the acknowledgement waiting four plus weeks for initial benefits is way too long. It won’t help pay the bills today but at least those who need help in the future should be better off for what’s happened here. 

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