DEO continues to lose ground

Published: May. 15, 2020 at 5:20 PM CDT
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There are new calls for the state to quickly pay unemployment claims now and worry about the eligibility of the claim later.

Statistics released Friday show the Department of Economic Opportunity continues to see more claims than it is paying.

Just over 175,000 Floridians filed for unemployment between Sunday and Thursday, but the agency continues to lose ground.

It processed just 153,000 claims during the five days.

“Pay the damn claims. Pay them. If you worried about fraud, go back and look at that after it's over with after you compensate these people,” said State Senator Perry Thurston.

Four state senators, all Democrats, renewed the call for a special session Friday but added the Governor could do more now.

“It can be fixed with a stroke of a pen by the Governor via executive order,” said Senator Gary Farmer.

The lawmakers want weekly benefits raised from $275 to at least $400 and they want to double the number of available weeks.

Senator Jason Pizzo has been physically walking constituents' names over to the agency.

Claims he said he knows are valid.

He told us the caseworkers processing the claims feel helpless.

“I had a call center person reach out to me saying how ridiculous it is. I have a blind man on the phone, who is obviously not looking at a computer, and I can do everything for him and I can’t submit his application. I mean, how ridiculous is that?” Said Pizzo.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit against the agency for slow payments is moving forward.

A hearing has been set for the day after Memorial Day.

"We have people who will testify that they were instructed that if someone calls and they can't pay the rent, can't pay the mortgage, to tell people to call the emergency number of the United Way,” said attorney Gautier Kitchen.

Senator Farmer called the idea, “Outrageous. It’s unconscionable."

More than 300,000 claims remain in a verification cue.

The majority are because employers, who have 20 days to verify employment, haven’t done so.