Florida’s unemployment assistance agency asking for patience amid technical issues, high call volumes

Coronavirus pandemic: Florida's unemployment site experiencing overload

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The state is asking for patience from thousands of Floridians who have yet to file their unemployment claims.

But patience is wearing thin for many who fear they’ll run out of money before anyone is able to get to their application.

The Department of Economic Opportunity, the agency that handles reemployment assistance, is overwhelmed with the volume of calls and emails it’s getting.

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Action News Jax introduced you to Gayle Coleman last Thursday when she had to pawn her late mom’s ring to make ends meet.

We caught up with her again today.

“Am I worried? You know, absolutely. I’ve been using food banks,” Coleman said.

Coleman lost her part-time job in Clay County and has been calling the DEO for days to get her identity verified so that she can apply for unemployment.

“Actually, I’ve called 45 times,” she said.

I brought that issue to the agency’s director of communications, Tiffany Vause.

“That team is also one team that we are expanding. We’re getting more people onto the team who are able to check that inbox, answer that phone line,” Vause said.

Vause said they went from having 5,000 claims a week to more than 100,000 and practically overnight.

“We are continuing to add a server capacity every single day, we’re working through the system at night trying to do batches trying to move things to the cloud as quickly as we can,” Vause said.

When you go to FloridaJobs.org, there’s an alert saying “The CONNECT system will be unavailable from 3:30 p.m. To 6:30 p.m. Wednesday April 1.”

“We’re really asking people to be patient with us,” Vause said.

This week, they’ve hired 70 people who will hopefully be ready to work by next week.

They’re also working on launching a mobile app.

“We hope to have that up in two weeks,” Vause said.

But patience is wearing thin for people in need like Coleman.

“This is the United States of America for God’s sake. Our technology should already be top notch, we shouldn’t have this issue,” Coleman said.

The DEO is asking people to try submitting their applications late at night when fewer people are online.

Also, Vause said Google Chrome is not accessible for their website -- Internet Explorer is the browser you want to use.

She also urges people to call their local CareerSource offices as well.

“Even if they can give limited advice or they have limited access to the reemployment assistance program or system, they do have the capability and they are in touch with local employers,” Vause said.

NOTE: The number for CareerSource Northeast Florida is 904-356-JOBS.

In the meantime, they’re working on hiring people from several cities, including Jacksonville, and have made changes to the website to address a PIN issue.

“We’ve also increased the capacity for licenses for folks to reset their own PINs. So, folks as of today can go in and more folks are able to reset their PINs,” Vause said.

The number to reach the DEO’s reemployment assistance is 1-800-204-2418. The line opens at 7:30 a.m.