Failures in Florida’s unemployment system

Congressman Daniel Webster

Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis also announced Chief Inspector General, Melinda Miguel would be investigating the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s (FLDEO) online reemployment system, CONNECT. As of May 5th, DEO had paid 481,497 claimants a total of more than $1.017 billion.

Gov. DeSantis has also directed the Department of Economic Opportunity to waive the state’s work search and registration requirements for claimants through May 30, 2020. However, claimants are required by federal law to return to the CONNECT system every two weeks to request their benefits. This confirms that the claimants are still unemployed due to COVID-19 and acknowledge they are available for work should it be offered.

I know many of you have still been unable to access the CONNECT system to apply or get the status of your application. My staff and I continue to stay in touch with Gov. DeSantis about the failures of the CONNECT system. We can submit your contact information to FLDEO staff and request that they reach out to you as soon as possible to resolve the issue or assist if you need help completing an application. We recently heard back from a constituent who contacted us for help getting information about his pending unemployment application. He contacted us to say he received a response from FLDEO and has begun receiving his weekly state benefits. If you would like us to reach out to FLDEO with this request, please call my office at 352-241-9220.

Paycheck Protect Program

The Small Business Administration (SBA) continues to process applications, first-come, first-served for the Paycheck Protection Program. According to the latest data from SBA, since new funding was provided, more than 222,000 Florida small business loan applications have been processed amounting to $13.4 billion in loans. One lender, Citizens Bank, recently shared an analysis that 75 percent of their more than 32,000 loans have gone to small businesses with fewer than 10 employees and 90 percent have gone to small businesses with fewer than 25 employees. They believe the money loaned has saved an estimated 400,000 jobs.

My staff have been working to assist small business owner-constituents as much as possible as they navigate the application process with lenders and wait for approval and funds. One member of my staff recently received the following note from a constituent he had assisted, “I wanted to let you know that our PPP application was approved this go around and funded…[it might not] sound like much but considering the fact that we have lost over $100,000 over the last two months, it certainly takes some weight off of our shoulders. I wanted to TRULY thank you for your efforts not just on our behalf but on behalf of ALL of the small businesses that you have assisted. Stay healthy and safe and thank you again.” For more information on small business loans visit: https://webster.house.gov/help-for-small-businesses

There have also been reports of publicly traded companies applying for and receiving loans intended for small businesses. The Small Business Administration has said it will be auditing loans that are more than $2 million. Additionally, Secretary Mnuchin recently said, “Anybody that took the money that shouldn’t have taken the money — one, it won’t be forgiven, and two, they may be subject to criminal liability, which is a big deal.”

Congressman Daniel Webster represents The Villages in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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