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 505,000 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.”
The state’s confirmed coronavirus infections since last month is nearing 30,000, with 4,500 people currently hospitalized. There have been at least 960 deaths.
Meanwhile, the governor’s task force that will make recommendations for reopening the economy met for the fourth straight day with a goal of finishing its report by Friday.
Farrington reported from Tallahassee. Associated Press writers Mike Schneider in Orlando, Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, and Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg contributed to this report.
Half a million jobless claims filed in Florida last week