ORLANDO, Fla. —  For more than two months now, thousands of Floridians have grown more frustrated with the constant errors of the state’s unemployment system.

Complaints are common, most pointing to a website that’s not functioning and call centers that can’t be reached.

As thousands have shared their pleas for help through phone calls, emails, and social media posts, Spectrum News has been pushing for weeks for answers from Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Governor Ron DeSantis, his team, and other state leaders.

As an effort to address some of the most prominent concerns, we are providing answers to marquee questions based upon our reporting and conversations with various state leaders.

DEO made public a dashboard showing the number of claims submitted, verified, processed and paid. Some 1.3 million people have submitted claims since March 15. You can see the latest numbers on the DEO website.


On Saturday, April 18, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity released an updated guide with a series of additional questions and answers, which we’ve included below. 

Please note that every situation is unique, therefore the most important advice will remain that you discuss your individual situation with Florida Department of Economic Opportunity via FloridaJobs.org or calling 1-800-204-2418.

FILING FAILURES (and Fixes)

The most common trouble most people are having is the state’s unemployment system is simply not work. Often times it is "down."

Others complain they can’t reach call center operators to verify their identity, reset account PINs, or even ask about their case.

THE FIXES

DeSantis signed three Executive Orders related to unemployment, of which some are still in effect, while others are not.

Executive Order 20-104 waives the requirement that individuals have to report biweekly unemployment. As of May 11, 2020, applicants are again REQUIRED to log into the CONNECT system every two weeks to claim benefits and verify weeks not worked.

Two other executive orders also waived the one-week waiting period, meaning individuals may apply for benefits effectively immediately upon being laid off/furloughed/etc. The executive order waiving the one-week waiting period and job search requirement are in effect until the extended day of May 30, 2020.

Q: I heard the waiting week for Reemployment Assistance has been waived, what does this mean?

A: Governor DeSantis waived the requirement to wait a week to receive Reemployment Assistance benefits beginning March 29, 2020 through May 30, 2020. The waiting week has been waived so eligible Floridians may receive the support they need to help recover from the current economic impacts of COVID-19. Previously, after your claim was filed and accepted, the state of Florida required a “waiting week” during which no benefits could be paid. (Source: DEO)

Q: Governor DeSantis waived the waiting week, why haven’t I gotten paid?

A: Due to the “waiting week” being waived, Floridians will be eligible for benefits for the first week of unemployment, in which they would not have previously been eligible. Your claim must be processed before the waiting week can be paid to determine if you are eligible for those benefits. You will also have to claim your first two weeks of benefits before the waiting week can be paid. This requirement is waived for the period of March 29,2020- May 30, 2020. (Source: DEO)

Q: I heard work registration requirement is waived, what does that mean?

A: Governor DeSantis has waived the work registration requirement for individuals filing an application for benefits from March 15, 2020 until May 30, 2020. If you file an application during this time period, you will not be required to complete the work registration in Employ Florida. You do not have to complete the registration if your application is filed between March 15, 2020 and May 30, 2020. You may be prompted to register in Employ Florida or may receive a message on the Reemployment Assistance system, however you do not have to register. If you completed your application prior to March 15, 2020, you must complete the online work registration. (Source: DEO)

Q: I heard work search requirements were waived, what does this mean?

A: Governor DeSantis has waived the work search requirement for individuals filing an application for benefits from March 15, 2020 until May 30, 2020. When completing the application, you will be asked questions about your ability and availability to look for work for the weeks of unemployment you are claiming. If you did not search for work due to the waiver, you may select “no” when asked if you looked for work that week. After selecting no, proceed through the next steps in the process. If you answered that you did not search for work, you will not be asked to complete a work search log. However, you will be asked additional questions that need to be answered to proceed to the next step in the process. Example questions may include: why did you not search for work; did you not have transportation; did you not have child care; or were you out of the area? If you did search for work, you may be asked to complete a work search log. (Source: DEO)

Q: I heard week certification requirements “claiming weeks” is waived, what does that mean?

A: In order to better serve you, Governor DeSantis suspended the bi-weekly reporting requirement until May 9, 2020. However, to comply with federal law, weeks beginning May 10, 2020, claimants will be required to return to the CONNECT system every two weeks to request their benefits or “claim their weeks.” In doing so, claimants will confirm that they are still unemployed and acknowledge that they are able and available for work should it be offered. (Source: DEO)

 

YOUR QUESTIONS

NOTE: Our guide of questions and answers are lengthy. If you’re searching for a specific circumstance trying searching the page for a keyword(s) by pressing the “ctrl” + “F” keys simultaneously on your keyboard. 

JUMP TO:

Applying and Qualifying for Florida Benefits

How do I apply for unemployment?

There are currently three ways to apply for unemployment in Florida.

CONNECT: This process is for those who already have an account created, have previously applied, or previously received state benefits.

PEGASUS: This process is for those who have never applied for or received state benefits. 

PAPER: Individuals may also choose to file for unemployment benefits by paper, of which there are two ways to submit your paper application.

Individuals may mail paper applications directly to FDEO:

  • P.O. Box 5350
    Tallahassee, FL 32314-5350

Individuals may also go to any FedEx location in Florida where they will print out a paper application and send it to Tallahassee on your behalf, free of charge.

NOTE: In order to submit an application you will need:

  • Social Security number
  • Driver’s License or State ID number
  • Employment information for the last 18 months for each employer:
    • FEIN number (this is found on your W2 or 1099 tax form), if available
    • Employer name (name on pay stub), address, and phone number
    • First and last day of work 
    • Gross earnings (before taxes are taken out) covering the last 18 months
    • Reason for separation 

If you are one of the following, make sure you have this additional information available:

  • Not a U.S. Citizen: Alien Registration Number or other work authorization for
  • Military employee: Copy of your DD-214 Member 4 if you do not have the Member 4, then a copy of your Member 2-7 may be used
  • Federal employee: SF-8 or SF-50
  • Union member: Union name, hall number, and phone number

Who qualifies for State of Florida unemployment?

There are State of Florida unemployment benefits that are separate from federal benefits provided through the CARES Act.

To qualify for state benefits ($275/week for 12 weeks):

  • You must have lost your job through no fault of your own, so you must not have quit for personal reasons or been terminated for misconduct 
  • You must be totally or partially unemployed
  • You must have a minimum amount of wages earned in what is called the "base period," which is the first 12 months of the past 15 months from when you filed your claim
  • You must be able to work, available for work, and actively seeking work (this requirement is currently waived). This includes being physically able to perform a job and having child care if necessary.

What if I quit my job because I did not feel safe working during the pandemic?

According to Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, when reviewing your claim, they will look at how and why you left your job. For example:

  • Ability and Availability Issues: In addition to reviewing why you lost your employment, we will look at whether you are able to work in another job. If you are not available to accept a job if one is offered, you will not qualify for benefits.
  • Discharge: If you were fired from your job, we will look at the reasons why. Your employer must show that it had just cause to let you go, such as misconduct on the job or that you didn’t try to do your duties successfully even though the employer tried to help you.
  • Voluntary Quit: If you voluntarily quit your job, you must show that you quit your job for good cause.
  • There are other factors that may impact your eligibility that we will ask you about. The most important thing for you to do is to answer all questions as accurately as possible. Always know that you can ask us questions at any time during the process by calling 1-800-204-2418.

What is the “base period”?

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity says that to qualify for state benefits, you must have a minimum amount of wages earned in what’s called the “base period”, which is the first 12 months of the past 15 months from when you filed your claim.

Why are you asking about my old employer? I have worked somewhere else, and I am not filing against them.

All employers during the last 18 months are reviewed and contacted regarding your employment. You cannot choose which employer is part of your RA claim. Please respond to all requests for information to ensure timely processing.

What if my employer fails to respond?

If they fail to respond to a request for information by their deadline, a determination will be made with the available information.

I previously filed for Reemployment Assistance (more than 12 months ago), do I need to file another claim? 

Yes.

I have already filed within the last year; do I need to file another claim?

If your previous claim has a remaining balance and has not expired, you need to file a “Reopen” request after logging into your CONNECT account. This is a shortened application to update your work history since your original application was filed. Once completed, any recent employment will be reviewed, and weeks of benefits will be scheduled for you to claim.

How do I check the status of my application?

After your Reemployment Assistance application has been processed, you will be notified of your eligibility. See below for the communication methods for each application.

If you submitted a paper application: You will receive notification via email or by mail after your application has been processed with a temporary PIN so you can access your account and see the status of your claim.

If you submitted an online application at FloridaJobs.org: You will receive notification via email or by mail after your application has been processed with a temporary PIN so you can access your account and see the status of your claim.

If you submitted an online application through CONNECT: You will receive confirmation in the CONNECT system that your application has been submitted. Once your application has been processed and your eligibility has been determined, you may receive benefits. You have the option to appeal your determination if it negatively impacts you.

When and how will I get my PIN for CONNECT if I applied through the new online application or on paper?

Once your application is received and reviewed, the Department will be in contact with you, either by phone, email or mail.

Why does my application status say I am ineligible?

There are many reasons you may be deemed ineligible for Reemployment Assistance benefits. This includes incomplete or inaccurate information. If you have incomplete or inaccurate information, the department will reach out to assist you in completing your application.

Please review the eligibility section of this Reemployment Assistance Resource Guide for more information.

What does inactive status mean?

The department is reviewing the accounts that are deemed eligible but have an inactive status. You do not need to go in and change anything in your account.

Why is my claim still pending?

If your status says pending, the department is still reviewing and processing your application. You do not need to take any action on your account at this time.

How do I get a password?

After your Reemployment Assistance application has been processed, you will be notified of your eligibility. See below for the communication methods for each application.

If you submitted a paper application: You will receive notification via email or by mail after your application has been processed with a temporary PIN so you can access your account and see the status of your application.

If you submitted an online application through FloridaJobs.org: You will receive notification via email or by mail after your application has been processed with a temporary PIN so you can access your account and see the status of your application.

If you submitted an online application through CONNECT: During the application process in CONNECT, you will set up your PIN. We encourage you to write it down and keep it in a safe place.

Applying and Qualifying for Federal Unemployment Benefits

Who qualifies for federal benefits under the CARES Act?

While most may qualify for federal benefits ($600/week through week ending July 31, 2020), not all will qualify for benefits from the state of Florida ($275/week for 12 weeks).

It’s important to note that CARES Act provides $600 per week to qualified individuals for weeks claimed starting March 29, 2020, ending the week of July 31, 2020.

Freelancers, self-employed, contractors, 1099 workers, "gig economy" workers such as Uber drivers are examples of those who will not qualify for Florida state benefits, but will qualify for federal benefits.

The CARES Act created three separate programs for unemployment assistance, each offering $600 per week through the week ending July 31, 2020. Note, you may only qualify for one program.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) provides an addition 13 weeks of benefits to those who have already exhausted the regular 12 weeks of benefits under Florida’s Reemployment Assistance Program. PEUC provides individuals up to $275 in weekly benefits.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) provides benefits for those who do not qualify for state benefits. This includes self-employed, 1099 workers, gig economy workers, etc. The CARES Act provides two levels of benefits under the PUA. The base level is $600 per week. The CARES Act also requires states to provide an additional amount of benefits, at minimum equal to average half-rate of state benefits and a maximum of full benefits. That range in Florida is $126 - $275. As explained, individuals who qualify for PUA will receive at least $600 per week plus $126 - $275 in addition to the $600. The $126 to $275 is based on various factors including work history.

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) provides $600/week for those who also qualify for regular state benefits.

If I qualify only for federal benefits, how do I apply?

Apply for benefits the same way any other individual would apply for Reemployment Assistance benefits, online at FloridaJobs.org. They will fill out the regular Reemployment Assistance application to determine if they are eligible for state Reemployment Assistance benefits. If they are not eligible, they will be directed to fill out a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance application.

Do I need to submit an additional application to receive the $600 CARES Act?

No. For those who have filed a new benefits claim, and it is being processed; or if you have an existing claim, DEO says there is nothing you need to do to receive the additional federal benefits. Payments will be made as they become available. There is no need, at this time, to submit a second application for federal benefits.

What is the duration and maximum amount of benefits I can receive?

Florida’s duration of benefits may adjust based on the state’s unemployment rate, but the maximum amount of benefits remains the same.

In addition, the CARES Act provides an additional $600 per week to the weekly benefit amount until July 31, 2020.

2019 Claim Maximums: 12 weeks

  • Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA): $275
  • Maximum Benefit Amount (MBA): $3300

2020 Claim Maximums: 12 weeks

  • Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA): $275
  • Maximum Benefit Amount (MBA): $3300

Are ALL federal checks going out for $540 and having taxes withheld? Some have said they did not opt in for taxes to be withheld prior so they’re confused why the check isn’t for $600.

Does this $40 tax go to the State or federal government?

A spokeswoman for DEO confirmed that federal benefit checks being mailed out ARE having federal income taxes withheld.

Spectrum News was told that in an effort to process claims quicker and speed up distribution of the federal benefits, the agency opted to take out federal withholdings in the first round of checks.

DEO also said as they are working to link the CONNECT system to process federal benefit claims they will soon be able to distribute funds in whole or pre-taxed based upon a person’s preference as selected in their online CONNECT profile.

Why is PUA application not posted for everyone?

Individuals who are eligible for PUA should see the PUA link. Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has not specifically answered why the PUA link is not provided to everyone who knows they only qualify for state benefits. 

Processing Your Unemployment Application 

How do I know if my application was received? 

There really is no way to know for sure if or when your application is received, especially if submitted by mail.

Once received, they’re supposed to be processed in the order in which they are received. For those who apply via the PEGASUS website or paper application, someone with DEO will reach out to you to verify additional information in order to finish processing the claim and verifying eligibility.

Per DEO:

  • If you submitted a paper application:
    You will receive a phone call, email or letter after your application has been processed. Based on your eligibility, you may receive benefits or you have the option to appeal your determination if it negatively impacts you. 
  • If you submitted an online application through FloridaJobs.org/RAApplication:
    You will receive a phone call, email or letter after your application has been processed. Based on your eligibility, you may receive benefits or you have the option to appeal your determination if it negatively impacts you. 
  • If you submitted an online application through CONNECT:
    You will receive confirmation in the CONNECT system that your application has been submitted. Once your application has been processed and your eligibility has been determined, you may receive benefits or you have the option to appeal your determination if it negatively impacts you. 

Please login to the CONNECT system to check for any updates to your account, respond to any requests for additional. If you have questions or need assistance, contact DEO at 1-800- 204-2418.

How are the applications being processed? 

State leaders are not shy about the overwhelming number of applications being received.

They’re also being received in different, ways, requiring different means of processing.

“We’re receiving paper applications simultaneously with electronic applications,” Secretary Satter said. “Because many (paper applications) are in hand writing, we have to manually transcribe those paper applications into the electronic system and that’s what we have our state employees doing.”

Satter estimates state employees are able to process five to six applications each per hour, up to 10 an hour.

Processing includes verifying a person’s information, work history, and other personal details.

“This system is talking to a wide variety of data sources throughout the country, verifying social security number, doing fraud checks, it is verifying employers, verifying if you live in Georgia but work in Tallahassee, it’s a cross-border issue,” Secretary Satter said. “Even on a good day when claims were low, it could take 10 to 14 days to have the process in the pipeline.”

According to Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, once an application is processed, you will be notified of your eligibility in writing or electronically.

  • If you are eligible on all issues, you will receive payment for any weeks that you requested during the bi-weekly process.
  • If you are not eligible, the written determination will explain the reason they denied your claim and will explain your appeal rights.
  • If you disagree with a determination that denies benefits, you may request an appeal hearing.

DEO also says:

When reviewing your claim, we will look to answer several questions that will impact your eligibility. Here are some examples:

  • Ability and Availability Issues: In addition to reviewing why you lost your employment, we will look at whether you are able to work in another job. If you are not available to accept a job if one is offered, you will not qualify for benefits.
  • Discharge: If you were fired from your job, we will look at the reasons why. Your employer must show that it had just cause to let you go, such as misconduct on the job or that you didn’t Reemployment Assistance Frequently Asked Questions 2 try to do your duties successfully even though the employer tried to help you.
  • Voluntary Quit: If you voluntarily quit your job, you must show that the circumstances at work were so bad that you had no choice but to leave, even though you did everything you could to get your employer to solve the problem.

There are other factors that may impact your eligibility that we will ask you about. The most important thing for you to do is to answer all questions as accurately as possible.

Always know that you can ask us questions at any time during the process by calling 1-800-204-2418.

I made a mistake on my claim. How do I edit? 

Unfortunately, once an application is submitted, the claimant is not able to make changes themselves. You will need to contact the contact center at 1-833-FL-APPLY (1-833-352-7759) for assistance. (Source: DEO)

I am missing a piece of information, should I still file? 

Our goal is to assist you in receiving the benefits for which you may be eligible. Missing information may create additional delays in determining your eligibility. (Source: DEO)

How many applications have been filed for unemployment benefits?

Secretary Jon Satter of Florida Department of Management Services, now overseeing the state’s unemployment system, said Thursday there have been approximately 850,000 claims filed since March.

Gov. DeSantis said Friday he believes many of those applications, however, may be from some of the same people who applied through the various means available.

“We’re finding that total number of submissions is not the same as total number of unique individuals,” DeSantis said. “They’re not doing anything wrong; they just want to make sure that it gets through.”

In terms of new applications filed:

  • Week ending March 21: 74,313 applications for benefits
  • Week ending March 28: 228,484 applications for benefits
  • Week ending April 4: 169,885 applications for benefits
  • Week ending April 11: 175,306 applications for benefits

While data is not available in real time, these numbers are also expected to grow in the coming days. Walt Disney World is scheduled to furlough a majority of its 77,000 cast members beginning April 19, with other companies across Florida continuing layoffs, furloughs, and other staff reductions.

How many applications have been processed?

Between March 15 and April 15, DEO processed 141,451 claims of the 850,000 claims filed. DEO said “this means a decision has been made on whether the claimant is monetarily eligible to receive Reemployment Assistance, in addition to what the amount of their weekly benefits will be.”

 

Getting Your Benefits

How are my benefits calculated?

  • The wages used to determine your benefit amounts are the first four of the last five calendar quarters. 
  • Claims filed as of April 1, 2020 use wages earned between 01/01/2019 through 12/31/2019. 

Once the state has the wages on record, it verifies the following to determine if you are eligible for benefits: 

  • $3400 minimum gross earnings during base period. 
  • You must have a minimum of two quarters of covered wages. 
  • Total base period gross wages must be more than 1.5x the highest wage quarter. 

Once we complete those checks, the last steps are simple:

  • Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA)
    WBA is the highest quarter divided by 26 OR the weekly amount $275, whichever is less
  • Maximum Benefit Amount (MBA)
    MBA is your total base period wages divided by 4 OR the yearly maximum, whichever is less

How many claims have been paid?

From March 15 to April 15, DEO has since paid 121,102 claims, totaling $47.5 million. DEO said this includes 33,624 applications filed after March 15.

Additionally, 23,801 checks for $600 from the federal benefits program have been mailed, although the agency is not yet able to process or distribute funds for those who qualify only for federal benefits, and not state benefits.

When will I get my benefits? 

Other than providing a timeline of one week to 10 days to establish a system to process unemployment claims, the state has given no firm timeline for when it feels confident that it will have all of the tech troubles addressed and a seamless process in place for applications to be approved and benefits paid.

What does “pending” mean?

Pending means the application is still being processed and looked into to determine if you qualify or not.

My account says I am inactive. Should I apply in the new application?

Per DEO: No. Only people who have never filed for Reemployment Assistance should file in the new application.

Any decision on retroactive payments? 

Pending answer from DEO, however there does appear to be movement toward allowing it. Florida state Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez wrote in a letter to Florida lawmakers that he had a conversation with Florida Department of Management Services Secretary Jon Satter. LINK

Based on the conversation between Senator Rodriguez and Secretary Satter:

“Retroactivity is “a go,” he said, and we should expected to see a rule this week on it,” Senator Rodriguez wrote.

Additionally Senator Rodriguez provided that “Secretary Satter says that they have not yet decided if retroactivity will be to date of jobs loss or date the applicant tried to apply (I stated it was only date of application). He stated their goal is to maximize the federal and state benefits,” according to State Representative Anna Eskamani’s website.

Additionally, DEO said CARES Act benefits will be paid retroactively when you become eligible under the CARES Act. The retroactivity is only applicable to the federal CARES Act Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. 

Will benefits be extended? 

Florida currently provides $275 per week for 12 weeks, one of the smallest payouts in the nation and one of the shortest windows in the U.S.

While some state lawmakers have petitioned for a potential Special Session, there is little reason to believe at the moment that will become a reality.

However, state law dictates that benefits be extended when the state’s unemployment rate reaches 5 percent.

One week of benefits is added when the rate reaches 5 percent, with one additional week added for every .5 percent of unemployment rate growth above that, with a maximum of 26 weeks.

Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor listed Florida’s unemployment rate at 4.3 percent for March 2020, up 1.5 percent from February 2020.

Once approved, how long will it take for someone to receive their benefits?

Theory is proving different than reality. While DEO says they are processing claims as quickly as possible, DeSantis said the standard time has been about three weeks, although many others say they have been waiting for more than four weeks for word on the status of their application, as others have also spent several weeks simply trying to apply.

Unfortunately there is not much of a realistic timeline on when DEO will be able to process applications and pay claims without issue.

Why are some federal claims going out as checks in the mail?

The state currently can only process and pay federal benefits to those who also qualify for state benefits. However the systems are not yet linked. A spokesperson for DEO said they found it is quicker to mail checks to get money in hand faster, as opposed to setting up the electronic distribution process.

DEO is expected to continue to mail weekly federal benefits by check for the “foreseeable future” until the agency is caught up with processing the backlog of hundreds of thousands of applications, create a system to process claims for those who only qualify for federal benefits, and link payment distribution electronically.

DEO said they currently have programmers constantly working to code the system appropriately.

Individual Industry and Technical Questions

How can I reset my PIN to access CONNECT? 

DEO offers two ways to reset a PIN:

On the CONNECT login page, select the “Forgot PIN” option and reset your pin after verifying your information.

The second option is to verify identity by providing a signed copy of your Social Security card and copy of driver’s license/government ID and sending them to:

Update: According to a letter to state lawmakers from Florida state Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez, he told colleagues, based on a conversation with DMS Secretary Jon Satter, that there are plans “moving forward with an online PIN reset feature (instead of via phone). He told me they’ve made their way through most PIN resets tempered by the fact that a lot of calls are still not making it through because of capacity; and that waiving the re-certification requirement remove the need for a PIN once someone starts receiving benefits; this should significantly reduce call volume.”

How will I know it’s really DEO calling me to talk about my claim and not a potential scammer?

A DEO representative will identify themselves as a representative from the Florida Reemployment Assistance Program and will tell the individual that they’re calling about the individual’s most recent Reemployment Assistance claim. A representative from DEO would never ask a claimant for their PIN number, debit card number or direct deposit information. 

What financial history is used to determine if a person is eligible for benefits? Does a person have to earn X amount?

Pending answer from DEO, although it is understood the agency is primary using employment data from 2019, although it is not clear from what time period of 2019.

Some applicants are getting a claim status that shows “Not Registered”. What does this mean?

Not registered means the claim is not submitted or not complete. The claimant should log into CONNECT and complete their application. 

I did not lose my job, but my hours cut in half, do I still qualify for benefits?

DEO says those whose hours have been “substantially reduced” may likely still be qualified for full or partial benefits. That can only be determined by filing an application for review.

My local school district closed, and I must stay home with my children. Am I eligible to receive Reemployment Assistance benefits? 

Per DEO, state benefits are only available to those who are now unemployed through no fault of their own; however those who are out of work for personal reasons may be eligible for federal benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. That can only be determined by filing an application for review.

Will the state ‘auto enroll’ furloughed Disney cast members?

Per a letter sent to employees April 17, Walt Disney World is enrolling furloughed cast members on their behalf. Governor Ron DeSantis maintains they will not be given any expedited benefits or "fast pass" for processing.

Walt Disney World previously announced it would furlough the majority of its 77,000 cast members beginning April 19. On April 17, Walt Disney World sent a letter to those furloughed cast members, informing them that they would be initiating the unemployment benefits application on their behalf.

“The high volume of new unemployment insurance (UI) claims during the past month has placed a tremendous burned on the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s resources,” Disney told cast members in a letter. “We have been working with state officials to make the filing and reimbursement process easier for all Florida residents who are seeking UI.”

“As a result, the FL DEO has agreed to allow the Company to file new UI claims on behalf of our Florida-based employees, including you,” the letter reads. “Because we will be submitting claims on behalf of all our employees simultaneously, the DEO systems and resources will remain accessible and at capacity for other Floridians attempting to file their own claims during the precedented times.”

I am scheduled to be furloughed April 19, will I still receive benefits if I cash out two weeks of PTO?

Cashing out personal/vacation time is considered income, therefore you will not be qualified immediately for benefits. If you are furloughed April 19 and choose to take a two week cash payout of vacation/PTO time, you will have to wait two weeks until you are then eligible for benefits.

It is unclear from DEO when applying if your furlough start date will be April 19 or the later date. It is best to contact your company’s HR department for clarity on your individual situation.

I am a professional freelancer earning income through various out of state production companies, primarily New York and California. Since I am a Florida state resident, do I apply for federal PUA benefits via Florida’s CONNECT system?

Confirmed, yes.

Do flight attendants qualify for benefits? 

An employee of any company who is furloughed or lost their job may be able to receive Reemployment Assistance. If an employee has not lost their job, but received a reduction in pay that decision is made between the employee and that company and does not make them immediately eligible for unemployment benefits. Also, if an employee with reduced hours is still making more than $275 per week, they would not be eligible for Reemployment Assistance. 

A Delta spokesperson did tell us:

“As part of Delta’s effort to support our people amidst the COVID-19 crisis, we’re providing resources to help employees who are seeking unemployment insurance after volunteering for leaves of absence. While Delta employees around the country have already been deemed eligible for state unemployment benefits, we’re aware employees are experiencing difficulties in Florida. We know these benefits are important to our people and we’re working closely with the state of Florida to find a solution.”

If a person is furloughed for three weeks and unable to apply for benefits because of the known computer issues, and is later called back to work, will they still be eligible to receive benefits for those three weeks not worked?

According to DEO Communications Director Tiffany Vause, a person would still qualify for benefits for those three weeks worked, but would have to still apply through CONNECT.

If a person is laid off or furloughed and decides to work for a gig economy app company such as Uber or Shipt, are they automatically disqualified for benefits?

Benefits paid are on a case-by-case basis. Getting another job does not automatically disqualify a person from receiving benefits, although if they are earning more than what the benefits would provide they likely would receive little to no benefits.

What financial history is used to determine if a person is eligible for benefits? Does a person have to earn X amount?

Per DEO, A person must have a minimum amount of wages earned in what is called the “base period”, which is the first 12 months of the past 15 months from when you filed your claim.

According to a claim online, monetary determination is pending and claim is in process, but logging into the account shows a note for no need to recertify and the system is down. How can an application be ‘processing’ but also monetary is at 0?

Without seeing this individual claim, we are not able to duplicate this issue the individual is seeing. We would encourage them to call the call center at 800-204-2418. 

What does “eligible” and “active” status mean?

This status is supposed to notify applicants that their application has been reviewed and determined to be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. It, however, is still unclear what specific status may indication that payment has been processed for distribution.

What does “resolved / complete” mean?

This is a status seen on the Pegasus website (FloridaJobs.org/RAApplication). This simply means that your information has been submitted to Department of Economic Opportunity. It is important to know that this is NOT an actual application, but merely a place holder website. You are providing basic personal information to get a place in line.

Once you submit your information via the Pegasus website or paper application, DEO says the next step is to wait for a DEO representative to contact you in writing or by phone to verify additional information so they can continue to process your claim.

I applied for benefits in early/mid March and have not seen my application be processed, while I see online others who applied in April are receiving benefits WHY? And do I need to apply again?

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has not answered yet why those who applied in April may be receiving benefits ahead of those who reportedly applied in March. Governor Ron DeSantis said during multiple press conferences that applications are being processed in the order they’re received.

What we have learned through conversations with legislative State Representatives is at this time: No, there is no need to reapply if you have not received your benefits. DEO is continuously trying to catch up on hundreds of thousands of backlogged applications, many of which may be duplicates from individuals who have tried applying through various methods in an effort to ensure their application was submitted amid widespread technology glitches in the state system.

Since applying my status has changed to “ineligible” but I can’t get a hold of DEO to find out why. I should qualify.

Only DEO can answer specifically why you may be ruled ineligible. It could be because you did not work enough in the State of Florida in 2019 (DEO has yet to say what window of time in 2019 they are basing qualifications on). “Ineligible” status does not mean you are ineligible for federal benefits.

The state currently is still trying to build the actual portal on their website to allow them to process applications for those who qualify for federal benefits, but not for state benefits. The state right now can only process applications for those who ALSO qualify for state benefits. DMS Secretary Jon Satter, who is now overseeing the unemployment system, said April 16 that he expects it to be another week to 10 days before the portal is online and the agency can start processing federal-only benefits.

Governor DeSantis signed an Executive Order waiving the requirement to log in biweekly to confirm weeks not worked, but does that apply to confirm the first week(s) not worked?

Yes. According to Helen Aguirre Ferre, Communications Director for Governor Ron DeSantis, the Governor’s Executive Order waives ALL reporting requirements for weeks not worked, including the first week and weeks beyond that.

If a person is set to return to work, but can’t claim or unclaim weeks, how can they contact DEO to let them know they are working again?

They should call 1-833-FL-APPLY to let our team know that they have returned to work. They should VOID and return any check received past the date they returned to work to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

 

Problems Specifically Related to the CONNECT System (Source: DEO)

What is CONNECT?

CONNECT is Florida’s Reemployment Assistance claims system. CONNECT offers access to apply, file, manage, and review your claim details.

Can I use my mobile device to file a claim or manage my benefits in the CONNECT System?

At this time, mobile devices are not supported with the claims system, CONNECT.

Are there certain requirements or criteria for creating my PIN?

Yes, please make sure your PIN meets the following criteria:

  • Your PIN must be four digits.
  • Your PIN can only be numbers. Letters and symbols are not allowed.
  • Your PIN cannot be the numbers 1111, 9999, 0000, or 1234.
  • Your PIN cannot be the last 4 digits of your social security number. 

Are there any restrictions for the security question answers?

Yes, please make sure your security question answers meet the following criteria:

  • Your answers must use letters and numbers.
  • Special characters are not allowed. (i.e.: $%#@)
  • Your answers must be between 5 and 35 characters in length. 

How can I reset my PIN to access my CONNECT profile?

There are two options to have your pin reset.

After entering your Social Security number on the CONNECT login page, select the “Forgot PIN” option to reset your PIN after verifying your information.

If it is necessary, you can submit documents verifying your identity to the department. Please provide a signed copy of your Social Security card and a copy of your valid driver’s license or state issued ID. These can be sent by fax or email to, Fax: 321-332-6608 or E-mail: IdentityRequest@deo.myflorida.com

If you are unable to reset your PIN through the options above, contact us at 1-833-FL-APPLY (1- 833-352-7759).

I received a technical error in CONNECT. What should I do?

There are two common causes to technical issues with CONNECT:

  • CONNECT is not compatible with mobile devices. CONNECT was designed for desktop computers.
  • CONNECT is most compatible with Internet Explorer, but also works in other internet browsers.

If you continue to receive technical errors after making these adjustments, please contact the department at 1-833-FL-APPLY (1-833-352-7759).

When I enter my Social Security Number, Driver’s License, and/or State ID, the system says the information is not valid. What should I do?

Please verify you are submitting the information exactly as it appears on your documents. If the system continues to report that information is not valid, after your third attempt, the system will accept the information you are providing. If this happens, your claim will be followed-up with a request for you to provide copies of your signed Social Security card and your valid Driver’s License or State issued ID card. The department will use this information to confirm your identity.

Sometimes the CONNECT system tells me to call back later. Why is that? 

"We experience periods of high call volume. If you are unable to reach the department by phone, please submit an e-mail for information regarding your claim. If you have a claim, please use the email address you have provided in CONNECT.

"The Reemployment Assistance contact us form can be found online. We have also opened a live chat service so you can talk directly to a representative online at FloridaJobs.org. "

I’m locked out of my account. It says I need to verify my identity, but no one will answer the phone or respond to my email. What do I do?

"At this time, we do not need additional documentation to verify the identity as long as the application is fully complete and submitted. If any additional information is needed, a DEO associate will reach out to the individual."

I used to have notices in my inbox. Why don’t I see anything in my inbox? 

"After you review an item in your inbox, it is hidden to make room for new notifications. You can use the search functions in the inbox to pull up previously viewed correspondence. If you want all items displayed, select the “Search” button with no search information entered. All correspondence will show in your inbox."

I am having trouble opening items in my CONNECT inbox. How can I access these documents? 

Please verify the following as these are common issues surrounding opening correspondence: 

  • Adobe Acrobat Reader is installed and up-to-date.
  • You are using a computer, not a mobile device such as a cell phone or tablet.
  • Make sure you are using a compatible browser.
  • Disable any pop-up blockers that may prevent PDF documents from opening.

I received an email and/or text from DEO saying I needed to log-in to CONNECT to view my messages, but I don’t have any messages.

"Due to the large volume of claims we are receiving, items sent to your inbox may take a few days to arrive. Please check your inbox at a later date to confirm receipt of any correspondence after initially filing your claim."

CONNECT will not allow me to continue without completing my work search and work registration requirement. I thought the governor waived this. Why can’t I complete my claim?

"The work registration and work search requirements have been waived for individuals requesting benefits for the weeks of March 15, 2020 to May 2, 2020, due to COVID-19. You do not need to complete the work registration. If you answer 'no' to the question asking if you looked for work when you are claiming your weeks, you will not be asked to complete a work search log.

"However, you will be asked some additional questions. Please be aware that your claim will not be affected if you answer no to this question during this timeframe. Governor DeSantis also suspended the bi-weekly 23 reporting requirement which means you will not be required to log into CONNECT every two weeks to claim your weeks of Reemployment Assistance. Please continue to check CONNECT for any important updates to your account." 

Why does CONNECT undergo so much maintenance, and why is it unavailable to users at certain times?

"CONNECT goes through occasional maintenance so the system can make payments to Floridians, process claims and run required updates."

How do I change the type of communication I receive?

After logging in to CONNECT:

  1. Select “View and Maintain Account Information” in the main menu.
  2. Select “Contact Information” option.
  3. Select “Edit.”
  4. Select your new “Correspondence Preference.”
  5. Make sure your contact information is up-to-date.
  6. Select “Submit.”

 When I submit my fact-finding questions, why do I get logged out and CONNECT doesn’t save my answers?

"Please be aware CONNECT may log you out of the system after periods of inactivity. If you spend too much time without changing pages in CONNECT, you will be logged out for security purposes. Please make sure if you have a large amount of information to provide in your fact-finding that you select “'Save' at the bottom of the page frequently to avoid losing any information."

Was the supplemental documentation I uploaded received in CONNECT?

"When you attach additional documents to your fact-finding, the form will show which documents have been successfully attached prior to submission. Please verify the documents you wish to submit are listed before sending your fact-finding documents. When you submit your documents, you will receive an error if they are not received successfully."

 

How to Appeal an Application Decision

What if I don’t agree with my Reemployment Assistance benefit determination?

You can request an appeal with our team within 20 calendar days after the distributed date of the determination.

Visit FloridaJobs.org/COVID-19 to download a Notice of Appeals form. You can send it in through one of these avenues.

  • Online: through CONNECT
  • Email: RA.AppealsClerks@deo.myflorida.com
  • Mail: Office of Appeals
    P.O. Box 5250
    Tallahassee, FL 32399-5250
  • Fax: 850-617-6504

I’ve been denied unemployment, but I was let go because of COVID-19. Do I need to submit an appeal?

You may submit an appeal. According to the state: "your determination will have appeal rights that provide you with the necessary information on how to file your appeal."

How do I file an appeal?

From the state: "You must request an appeal hearing within 20 calendar days after the distributed date of the determination. If the 20th day falls on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday you may file the appeal the next business day.

"You may submit your request for an appeal by mail, fax, email, or online through CONNECT. Please complete a Notice of Appeal for your request by mail or fax. Please use the CONNECT guide to file online. To submit by email, attach your Notice of Appeal and send to RA.AppealsClerks@deo.myflorida.com . 

Was my request for monetary reconsideration received?

CONNECT will not display a confirmation screen when submitted. Verify the request was received by checking the “Determination, Pending Issues and Decision Summary” section of CONNECT and reviewing the “Monetary Pending Issues” section. You should see a pending item attached to the employer’s name that you reported wage issues on.

What is an appeal hearing?

An appeal hearing is scheduled when you or an employer disagree with a Department determination and wish to have a hearing with an appeals referee. To protect your rights, participating in the hearing is important, even if the other party filed the appeal. The decision from this hearing will replace the determination that was appealed.

What is the status of the surge of ‘ineligible’ claims and the promise to look into it. Still getting a significant (hundreds) of emails with people who maintain they have been long term W2 workers, making in excess of $50K and were deemed ‘ineligible’. Widespread consensus there has to be a glitch or error of some kind.

There are numerous reasons an applicant can be found to be ineligible including incomplete or inaccurate information. For individuals who may have an incomplete or inaccurate information, DEO is reaching out to assist in completing their applications.

Questions Waiting for Answers

Does receiving Florida re-employment benefits adjust Social Security benefits in any way? The question is “…I am limited in what I can make in wages before SSA starts withholding some of my benefits.”

Pending answer from DEO.

What is the best way for employers to confirm a person’s status if they cannot get a hold of a customer service representative?

Pending answer from DEO.

If I receive rental assistance or other forms of financial aid from groups such as Salvation Army or United Way, will that impact my eligibility for unemployment benefits?

Pending answer from Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

If I have already exhausted, or am about to exhaust state benefits, will I automatically receive federal benefits under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, or do I need to reapply?

Pending answer from Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

My job originally cut my hours when I applied for benefits through CONNECT. Then I was entirely furloughed. How can I update my pending application since CONNECT is always down or I can’t get through?

Pending answer from Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

How does receiving Social Security, pensions, and other incomes impact eligibility for state and/or federal benefits?

Pending answer from Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

I recently moved; how can I update my address if I can get through to the CONNECT website, to ensure I still receive the federal benefits check?

Pending answer from Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

It is abundantly clear there seems to be an issue for those filed for benefits in March. I have spoken to more than 600 people who illustrate the same thing. They applied at some point in March and their CONNECT profile shows no change in status, while they are seeing a growing number of social media posts from April filers who are not only being processed, but receiving benefits. 

  1. I need an explanation as to why this is happening.
  2. What is being done to address applications filed in March that are not seemingly moving.
  3. If it is become some piece of information is missing, is DEO notifying these people in line, or just skipping over them and processing the applications with all information? 

Pending answer from Florida Department of Economic Opportunity

I’ve already received more than 100 messages this morning from people who are getting messages about technical difficulties and automatically being disconnected from the call center. Any insight what is happening?

 Pending answer from Florida Department of Economic Opportunity

HAVE A QUESTION NOT LISTED ABOVE?

Still have questions? Saturday night, April 19, FDEO released a 35-page guide including additional Q&As. As we continue to go through this guide we encourage you to do the same as it may provide insight to your specific situation.