Unemployment in Florida | An Open Letter to Governor DeSantis

Welcome to the 2020 Florida Unemployment Fiasco!


Hi friends from near and far! After 45 days in Florida’s unemployment queue with no real updates, no reassurance and more questions than answers, we reached out directly to our governor with a personal note. At a recent press conference, he shared that the DEO was reaching out to applicants on social media, so we figured why not attempt to make contact in a new way. The state’s website and phone number are rarely functional, so let’s see if a more vocal approach helps. We’ll keep you posted here if/when I receive a response.

Got a disastrous unemployment tale of your own? Tell us in the comments – would love any officials who end up on this page to know that we are not alone.

  • 5/8 UPDATE: I filed for reemployment assistance 48 days ago. It’s been 3 days since I emailed Governor DeSantis. No response. Unemployment status is still pending on the CONNECT site. No PUA link yet.
  • 5/11 UPDATE: I filed for reemployment assistance 51 days ago. It’s been 5 days since I emailed Governor DeSantis and there has been no response. I’ve called his office as well but did not get through. Unemployment status is still pending on the CONNECT site. No PUA link yet.
  • 5/12 UPDATE: I filed for reemployment assistance 52 days ago. It’s been 6 days since I emailed DeSantis. No response. Unemployment status is still pending on the CONNECT site. No PUA link. Just got this fun notice after trying to claim my re-employment weeks: “This requested week has been identified as your Waiting Week, and will therefore not be paid.” Waiting Week? I’ve been waiting since 3/22.
  • 5/13 UPDATE: I filed for reemployment assistance 53 days ago. I emailed Governor DeSantis again yesterday. No response. Unemployment status is still pending on the CONNECT site. No PUA link.
  • 5/14 UPDATE: I filed for reemployment 54 days ago. Good news: Denied again & got the PUA link! Bad news: I’ve input my info 5 times and keep getting kicked out before reaching the end. Time spent: 2 hours. No response from DeSantis.
  • 5/15 UPDATE: I filed for reemployment 55 days ago. Trying to file via the PUA link. I input my info (takes about 15 minutes) and it gives me the same error message each time. Spent 3 hours yesterday and 1 so far today. No response from Governor DeSantis, who appeared on TV today saying 99% of eligible Floridians have been paid. That’s not even close to being true.
  • 5/18 UPDATE: I filed for reemployment 58 days ago. I have been unable to submit proof of employment information on the website despite trying for hours each day. I’ve been deemed eligible pending adjudication determination. Which is…?
  • 5/19 UPDATE: I filed for reemployment 59 days ago. Today I received 2 FPUC payments! Still no PUA but I’m more hopeful than I’ve been. I now join those who’ve been eligible all along awaiting backpay from March/April. Will we get it, Governor DeSantis?
  • 5/29 UPDATE: I filed for reemployment 69 days ago. I’ve received 2 federal/2 state payments out of maybe 16 or so I’m eligible for. The @FLDEO site STILL won’t let me upload or call to verify my income, so I’m receiving less than what I qualify for.
  •  6/8 UPDATE: I filed for assistance 79 days ago. I’ve received 4 of 22 payments I’m eligible for. I still can’t get through to FLDEO by phone. I just spent three hours trying to upload my proof of income and access documents sent to my inbox, and I got all the way to the end and the website kicked me out again. Meanwhile, the City of Jacksonvnille is distributing federal funds left and right to citizens and small businesses. Even WITH the occasional website issue, they’re still getting in done in record time. Why can’t the state do the same?
  • 7/23 UPDATE: I filed for reemployment assistance 123 days/roughly 17 weeks ago. I’ve received 6 payments in that time. I can’t reach anyone at FLDEO. How is this STILL broken?

May 6, 2020

Dear Governor DeSantis,

I hope you and your family are well during this crisis. Casey interviewed me many times when she hosted The Chat, so congratulations to you both on the new baby.

I’m writing you as a self-employed member of Florida’s tourism industry. I’m a Gator grad with a public relations degree, and after a decade working in marketing in New York and Atlanta, I left the corporate world to carve out my career as a travel writer. Since then, my sister and I have formed multiple businesses together – we create content for destination marketing organizations, develop licensed video and photography and run an influencer marketing consultancy. We’re freelance journalists, TV hosts and contractors at Disney and Universal. My husband and I also own a vacation rental in Jacksonville. 

We have many diverse ways of making income but due to the circumstances of COVID-19, all of them are on life support. We don’t know if we’ll be able to continue working in tourism. We don’t know if the website we’ve spent 15 years building into one of the world’s top travel sites will recover. We just can’t be sure if the travel show we’ve been filming will outlast coronavirus. There is so much uncertainty.

What I do know is that we’ve worked very hard, paid taxes and advocated for our home state as a tourism destination for more than 20 years, and we never miss a chance to vote.

The current unemployment system was already a disaster, and you inherited a broken site. But as a website publisher myself, I can tell you from experience that no matter how complicated a website, it wouldn’t take this long to repair if you’d started from scratch. How it cost tens (if not hundreds) of millions of taxpayer dollars is a question that voters would like to see answered by an independent investigation.

The blame for the broken system may not be wholly yours, but it’s certainly not on us. To suggest, as you recently did at a press conference, that hundreds of thousands of Floridians didn’t enter our security numbers or employment information correctly is an insult. The Floridians in need today are business owners, working parents, entertainers, hustlers. We help drive the economy! We are not incompetent leeches intent on draining the system and never working again. You might be surprised, but small business owners and self employed entrepreneurs are pretty savvy at filling out simple forms with our own personal information. We’d love nothing more than to save our livelihoods right now.

After several days of trying, my application was finally completed on the dysfunctional CONNECT site on March 22 — 45 days ago. I was prompted again and again to claim weeks and provide work search history though the requirements were waived. Eventually I was deemed ineligible last week with no explanation and learned, not from the DEO, but via social media to reapply on the same system with nearly identical forms a few days later. There’s been no update since. There’s no indication how to apply for PUA made available by the CARES Act. If given the opportunity, I’m able to provide years of tax returns, check stubs and verification that I work as hard as anyone else and am eligible according to the law for this assistance.

The system is failing us. When I call the DEO phone number, I reach a recording that directs me back to the website, which directs me to call the same number that doesn’t work. It’s a breadline to nowhere. Even now after all the promised fixes and updated server capacity, the site might eventually load after you enter all your information half a dozen times. Usually there’s an hour’s worth of data entry only to have it kick back to the first page. Did it work? Did the information submit correctly? Is help on the way? No one knows!

If it’s true as you say that the DEO is reaching out to the most vocal individuals on social media, then that’s a disgraceful, inefficient way of fixing this problem. Applying for assistance according to the guidelines we’ve been given should be enough.

Forcing panicked Floridians to beg for government attention on social media is a humiliating additional step that should not be a part of the already demoralizing process of losing our jobs.

Furthermore, I’ve been actively reporting on this fiasco across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for 7 weeks and I haven’t received a reply from you, the DEO or any other official. If I’m not receiving responses from my verified accounts, what chance do others have to reach your desk?

It’s widely known now that the taxpayer-funded unemployment system was designed to make applying difficult and to keep the unemployment numbers low. What’s less obvious at first glance is how significant those statistics are for real people. When Florida reaches a certain percentage of unemployment, benefits increase for all those eligible. For every half percentage point unemployment increases after that critical point, eligible constituents receive additional weeks of payments. Unemployment is at an all time high across the nation, except in Florida where the numbers tell a different story. How very peculiar that the DEO is consistently marking applicants ineligible with no explanation, no recourse and no way to appeal. The numbers almost certainly appear lower than they are.

From my perspective as a law-abiding taxpayer, this stinks of corruption and greed. I pray you and my other currently elected officials are not complicit in this scheme, but it’s a challenge to keep the faith in the face of repetitive press conferences that pass the buck and offer no real solutions.

There are hundreds of thousands of eligible Floridians waiting for you to take decisive action – my sister and I are just two of them. There are many choosing between mortgage or food; car payments or medicine; supporting the crashing economy or holding onto what they have left because they just don’t know when they’ll be able to go back to work again.

I implore you to call the DEO helpline. Sit on hold for an hour or two. Chat with an operator with no authority to answer questions. Walk through the online application process with a real Floridian stuck in limbo. Either you aren’t getting the full story from your officials, or this really is as bad as it looks.

Either way, Floridians do not deserve this insult to injury in the midst of losing so much else. I’m begging you to fix this problem for me, for my sister and for all Floridians. Thank you,

Angie & Rachel Orth 

9 thoughts on “Unemployment in Florida | An Open Letter to Governor DeSantis”

  1. Adrienne Houghton

    Wow Angie, what a brilliant letter. I am also in the same situation. You may remember we met on The Chat as I was their Fashion Consultant and as a self employed TV presenter, host for Fashion Shows and adult Tap dance teacher, have been unable to work since 12th March. My DOE file currently says pending and I was extremely amused at the 5 jobs they sent to me – Fraud Examiner for Deutsch Bank and Computer program Developer!! Your letter has expressed all my frustrations. I look forward to seeing whether you receive a reply and if the issues are addressed. Happy Days

  2. Hello I am self-employed sole proprietor and I applied March 26th I was deemed an eligible by snail mail April 14th and then for no reason that we were told anyway we had to reapply I did that on April 26th I am now stuck in under review pending with no way of filing for the PUA funds which are specifically given by the Feds for those of us that didn’t qualify for state unemployment! 44 days no income!!!

  3. I filed and was approved for unemployment in 9/30/2019. In October, I obtained employment and advised DEO that I was employed. In January, I reopened my claim and six weeks later was deemed eligible in late February 2020. I continued claiming my weeks. In March, the country shutdown and the CARES Act was introduced. I learned I was eligible for federal benefits under the CARES Act effective 3/29. On April 27, when I attempted to claim my weeks as required, I received a new link Apply for PUA. I began to fill out the application but than the system crashed. When I was able to obtain access to the DEO website, my claim information was altered. My claim date had changed from 9/30/2019 to 4/26/2020. and my claim status went from ELIGIBLE to NOT REGISTERED. THIS IS INCORRECT!!! and has caused me not to receive benefits that were retroactively due under the CARES Act for April 5, April 12, April 19, April 26 and now May 4. TO DATE, NO MONIES HAVE BEEN RECEIVED and I was actively collecting benefits until this computer glitch occurred. The issue I am having with the DEO website is a simple fix so I can continue receiving the benefits I have been deemed eligible for since February 2020. I am requesting that DEO correct my claim immediately and have my benefits issued immediately so I can handle my household expenses, such as rent, utilities, my much needed heart medication and eye medication. I am confident that DEO will what is right and correct what their computer system has wronged.

    1. Kimberly – I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this! What a mess. I join you in hoping the DEO will sort this out sooner rather than later.

  4. Evelyn A Bernard

    Hello, I applied to Connet 2/3 Im still pending and can’t find anyone to answer my questions. my SS and my job information are correct.

    This got me mentally sick, I hope we’ll find a solution soon.

  5. There are no words. I am a RealEsate Relocation Specialist,
    I only work with buyers, they come from New York, Tri State area and Pennsylvania. My business also has been on life support as all my prospects bailed out of the state of Florida mid March because of Covid and border shutdowns.
    I applied 3/28 for Cares Act funds assuming I was ineligible for State benefits because I’m a 1099 earner.
    Reapplied 4/28, after a month of no money, no communication, and hundreds of calls to no avail, locked out of system because of the PIN issue.
    After emails to everyone I could find at the DEO, and Senator Galvanos office, I guess I was fast tracked to the March black hole, it’s really dark down here.
    On May 1 was granted the PUA link, it was like a unicorn covered in sparkling sprinkles! I applied with no problems.
    I was also able to push my eligible date back to the original date of 3/ 28, I have requested benefits 5 times, still no PUA money.On May 8, I won the lottery with 2 ( two) 600.00 checks in my mailbox. But, that’s it… nothing more,
    So when MrDeSantis claims I’ve been paid, I guess he’s correct, pennies on the dollar for what I’m actually owed.
    725.00 per week x 8.
    I could write a book, but you already know the story, it’s the same for all of us, or a similar derivation.
    I’m so soured on Florida, I may be difficult to put this trauma behind me and SELL Florida like I used to.
    Wende Marracino

  6. Filed 4/12/20 active an eligible since 4/28, received a few PUA checks, then as of this week, the PUA check was not deposited on Tuesday like the prior 3. Now its has stopped.
    There are thousands of Floridians in the same scenario.
    Today was kicked out of the Connect system 4x while attempting to claim weekly benefits. The connect site is shut down every nite. A lot of this could have been expedited by setting up administrative servers just for the payouts at DEO allowing Floridians to continue using the Connect system every evening which could speed up the processes to those hurting.

  7. Being Canadian and lucky enough to have less to worry with the Covid-19 as we followed strict requirements from our government, I truly feel for you in Florida. Seeing record Covid-19 Florida cases and not seeing a strong helpful direction from Governor DeSantis, I can only sit and stare in awe when I read or watch any news from Florida. I hope you all stay strong.

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