TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) — More than 223,000 first-time unemployment claims were filed last week in Florida, a slight uptick from the prior week, as the state widened its economic reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday an estimated 223,927 initial claims were submitted in Florida during the week that ended May 16, slightly lower than numbers in California and New York.READ MORE: NBA fines Miami Heat $25,000 for violating 'bench decorum'
Nationally, the department reported 2.44 million initial claims filed during the week. That was down 249,000 from the prior week.
But the new national numbers showed a surge in applications for federal unemployment benefits that were approved by Congress in a stimulus law. The figures don’t break down the federal applications for Florida and nearly 20 other states.
More than 38 million first-time claims have been made nationally since the pandemic took hold in mid-March.
Florida’s estimated total last week was up slightly from an adjusted 223,082 during the week ending May 9. The numbers have come as Florida has tried to bolster its troubled CONNECT online unemployment system and as Gov. Ron DeSantis has moved forward with the first phase of an economic-reopening plan.
The state peaked with 506,670 new claims during the week ending April 18.
“This is a difficult time. I think we’re transitioning, hopefully, into a time where the economy can start to do a little bit better and hopefully much better in the not-too-distant future,” DeSantis told reporters Tuesday while giving an overview of efforts to improve the CONNECT system.
“I wish that could happen overnight. And maybe it will, but I gotta, you know, assume that that this is going to be a process,” he continued. “So, in the meantime, (we need to) get that payment out as quickly as possible. And I can report that there are people that have already been paid, who applied within the last 10 days, whose applications were submitted, fully done. They’re verified, and then the payment has gone out. So, the process that they’re using, has gotten a lot better. And it’s taken a lot of work.”
In March, Florida had a 4.3 percent unemployment rate, representing 444,000 people out of work. But that only included early numbers from the economic destruction caused the coronavirus forcing businesses to shut down or dramatically scale back.
The state Department of Economic Opportunity will release April unemployment figures on Friday. The national unemployment mark hit 14.7 percent in April.READ MORE: Man faces several charges including pointing laser at BSO aviation unit
Thursday’s Department of Labor report indicated that Florida’s numbers were impacted by layoffs in sectors such as agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade and service industries.
From March 15 to Tuesday, the state Department of Economic Opportunity reported receiving more than 2 million unemployment claims, of which more than 1.5 million were considered “unique.” The difference is due to duplicates or incomplete paperwork, according to the state.
Of the unique claims, more than 1.48 million had been processed as of Tuesday, with 905,770 deemed eligible for state benefits. Also, 105,137 applicants had been found eligible for federal unemployment assistance, while 370,160 were ineligible for state or federal relief.
DeSantis highlighted that the state had paid out $2.7 billion in assistance. Federal relief accounted for $1.78 billion of the money distributed by the state.
But his administration has continued to face criticism about the processing and approval of claims.
DeSantis has ordered an investigation into the $77.9 million CONNECT system, which went live in 2013 but was quickly overwhelmed when jobless claims started skyrocketing in mid-March.
Democrats, who have said the investigation should include the current administration’s handling of the system, continue to call for DeSantis to take executive action to expand the number of weeks people can be eligible for state relief from 12 and the amount that individuals can receive weekly. State benefits are capped at $275 a week, though federal benefits pay $600 a week.
Democrats used an online call with reporters Tuesday to question DeSantis’ assertions that many rejected applicants failed to include full names, Social Security numbers or other required information on their submissions.
“These people are not turning in applications and coming up with applications that don’t have the last name or don’t know their Social Security numbers,” Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, said during the conference call. “These are individuals who have been out there waiting for months and months and months while we look at a system that continues to be failed.”Miami ex-Proud Boys leader Henry 'Enrique' Tarrio to stay jailed until Capitol riot trial
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