State continues to struggle processing huge number of payments
Despite Florida’s government green light to start reopening a coronavirus-stricken economy, unemployment claims in the state soared into six-figure territory again, up more than 47,000 to 221,905, for the week ending May 9.
Despite a government green light to start reopening Florida’s coronavirus-stricken economy, unemployment claims in the state soared by more than 47,000 to 221,905 for the week ending May 9, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday.
Nationally, 2.981 million claims were filed, surpassing economists’ expectations by more than 200,000. Nearly 36.5 million people have filed unemployment claims over the past two months, the biggest loss in U.S. history.
A record of 20.5 million jobs were lost in April alone as the economic shutdown sent the national unemployment rate to an astronomical 14.7%.
State unemployment rates for April won’t be released until May 22, but Florida’s rate for March was 4.3%, closely tracking the U.S. level of 4.4%.
“Another sickening punch to the gut,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate. “And, we need to be braced for more incoming body blows with respect to economic data.”
As more Floridians sought financial aid in May, the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity continued to struggle with processing payments. As of Tuesday, the agency said it had paid 693,950 people more than $1.77 billion since March 15. About two-thirds of the payments are from the federal government authorized by a coronavirus relief act signed into law March 27. But there are still roughly 700,000 people who have yet to receive money, according to the agency’s own figures.
States across the nation have been overwhelmed trying to process an unending surge of unemployment claims over the past two months.
Florida is among the slowest in paying its unemployed, placing increased pressure on many out-of-work citizens whose savings are close to running out or have already plunged to zero. The slow pace continues as a moratorium on evictions for homeowners with mortgages and renters is scheduled to expire June 2.
Gov. Ron DeSantsi renewed a waiver through May 31 that excuses the unemployed from reporting their job search efforts to the DEO every week.
But the DEO, citing federal law, restored a requirement for individuals receiving benefits to check in every two weeks to keep their payments alive. “In so doing,” the agency website says, people “will confirm that they are still unemployed and acknowledge that you are able and available for work.”