Faulty website, quarantine mandates, questionable
birth certificate demands impede benefits process
As much of South Florida remains under the pandemic lockdown, technical glitches continue to plague the state’s unemployment website, and over 40 percent of Floridians have been denied benefits, state Senator Annette Taddeo (D-Miami) on Friday called on the governor to extend his executive order temporarily waiving the work search requirement for job-loss compensation.
“Without an extension, more than one million applicants will need to access the unreliable CONNECT website every two weeks to enter work search data,” wrote the Senator in a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis, noting that Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties remain under stay-at-home orders and are not included in the first phase of the governor’s state-reopening plan. “If South Floridians…are not able to return to work, how is it possible…to have work search data?”
An alarmed Senator Taddeo also questioned letters a number of her constituents are receiving from the beleaguered Department of Economic Opportunity, demanding applicants send proof of birth certificates, contrary to state statute (Chapter 443 F.S.), and an almost impossible requirement given many were born in countries such as Cuba and Venezuela, where birth certificate copies are not easy to obtain.
“I am requesting that you issue an executive order to temporarily remove the requirement to require a birth certificate if the applicant affirms eligibility and has provided another source of identification,” she wrote.
Finally, Senator Taddeo called on the governor to rectify other agency-instituted obstacles, especially the lack of due process for those applicants rejected, and no instructions provided for where or how to appeal. As well, the lack of training for newly-deployed call center operators who appear largely unable to answer the myriad of questions applicants cannot find answers for themselves.
“Floridians who need help and are calling the right number for that help are being told they cannot be helped,” wrote Senator Taddeo. “This is unacceptable. I am requesting that you and the DEO take immediate action to ensure that phone calls are being answered promptly by properly trained personnel.”