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In Latest Obstacle to Jobless Benefits, Florida Moves to Computer-Only System

| January 8, 2013

The good old days of picking up jobless benefits in person.

The good old days of picking up jobless benefits in person.

Changes to Florida’s unemployment system may be leaving some potential recipients without benefits as the state transitions to an online system for delivering unemployment compensation.

State labor officials say the move within the Department of Economic Opportunity to streamline jobless benefits will result in lower program costs and improved accountability while still allowing applicants to speak with a human being to help them if they need it.

Critics, however, say that despite the rapid expansion of Internet, many residents seeking jobless benefits lack easy access to a computer, lack the skills to use them and may not be getting the assistance they need.

“This just presents an additional technical hurdle,” Valory Greenfield, an attorney with Florida Legal Services in Miami, told the Orlando Sentinel last week. “Another barrier you have to jump over.”

Lawmakers in 2011 approved a series of business-backed changes that reduced the maximum number of weeks of compensation from 26 to 23 and required applicants to undergo an initial skills test to receive benefits.

The bill also requires most applicants to submit claims information via computer. Under a new system being developed to replace its 35-year-old predecessor, applicants may also be required to have an email address as part of the required information.


That system, now referred to as Reemployment Assistance, is now scheduled to be up and running by October.

“It is not the intent that email to be the only option for claimants to communicate their issues regarding the system,” DEO spokesman James Miller told the News Service. “We are simply trying to leverage technology to provide important information to claimants, such as job openings, as quickly and efficiently as possible,” he said.

Between Aug. 1 and Oct. 31, nearly 140,000 Floridians were denied benefits, more than double the rate of the same period a year earlier, the Sentinel reported.

An October study by the Pew Research Center found that 19 percent of adults surveyed in August said they do not use the Internet. For those with less than a high school education, the percentage jumps to more than half.

Critics have pointed to the uptick in denied claims as a clear sign that requiring applicants to use computers to access the system is resulting in some not receiving benefits, a contention that DEO’s spokesman said is not the intention of the automation program.

“DEO’s Reemployment Assistance staff is always available to assist those claimants with any barriers to using a computer,” Miller said. “For those claimants without a computer at home, access is available at local libraries and at the One Stop Career Centers statewide managed by the state’s 24 Regional Workforce Boards.”

–Michael Peltier, News Service of Florida

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8 Responses for “In Latest Obstacle to Jobless Benefits, Florida Moves to Computer-Only System”

  1. Whodat says:

    ..Just another way to make useless Gov Scott look good for lowering the numbers. Another lawsuit in the making. Pile them on at taxpayers expense. Can’t wait till he’s gone.

  2. Lonewolf says:

    Classic republican politics

  3. Deep South says:

    I have also heard that those recipients applying for unemployment benefits must put in a least 5 prospective job researches that they have applied for every two weeks with the job number, company name, address, and contact person. They are also required to meet with a job replacement agency every two weeks for counseling and training.

  4. pcfan says:

    Isn’t it amazing how many people find a job as soon as their benefits run out.

    • Justin B. says:

      Yeah, it’s amazing that they finally forced to give up on finding a decent job, and are forced to take a part time job paying minimum wage just so they don’t starve to death, lucky them.

  5. tulip says:

    Perhaps a person on unemployment can’t AFFORD a computer and internet expense? Perhaps the person can’t get to the library to use theirs and , if they have too have an email address, using a friend’s computer is useless also, unless the friend lets the person have email sent in regards to the applicant.

    I do believe that people looking for a job should turn in proof they have inquired, filled out a resume, etc. Too many are willing to just collect benefits for as long as they can.

    I understand that this is a technological age that is rapidly expanding, but it doesn’t mean that EVERYBODY has access to a computer and an e mail address, and that includes a lot of senior citizens. Allowances must be made for these people. Unfortunately SCOTT has not sense of reality about human beings.

  6. confidential says:

    Computerized system or not, if we want to do away with the jobless numbers need to buy more Made in the USA and or demand that more of our consumer products are made here, by boycotting buying imports!! Americans need to realized that we are not helping our jobless and small businesses, while our trade deficit gets worst: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/us-trade-gap-hit-48-133926683.html

    Also if raising taxes on the wealthier including large corporations, worked well for formerly bankrupted California that went from 25 billion in the hole 2 years ago (coincidentally with a Rep Governor) and since Dem. Jerry Brown took office, not only are out of the billions in the read but expected an 875 million surplus? Why GOP Congress and Senate oppose so adamantly same to be done by the Fed and get us out of this financial mess and finally help to create some of the 11 million jobs we need, by hiring the government workers that provide the tax paid services we deserve? :
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-10/california-to-post-851-million-budget-surplus-brown-projects.html

  7. Anon says:

    “I have also heard that those recipients applying for unemployment benefits must put in a least 5 prospective job researches that they have applied for every two weeks with the job number, company name, address, and contact person. They are also required to meet with a job replacement agency every two weeks for counseling and training.”

    Unfortunately, you have heard wrong. Claimants are required to make/have a minimum of 5 job contacts per week and to document them when they claim weeks. They do not have to APPLY to 5 jobs a week.

    To the surprise of many, Justin B’s comment above is more on the mark than many may realize. There is an allowance in Florida that for the first 20-some weeks of unemployment you are NOT required to just take any job. “Suitable work” for that initial period is defined in the law as work that does not pay at least 80% of your previous wage.

    Despite the myths of many, that unemployed people are sitting at home in ease – (tried living on $275 a week lately? – and that’s the MAXIMUM benefit in our fair state)- most would surely rather be working- at a decent job with a decent wage. Not a part-time, low-wage, no set schedule job.

    There is a social benefit to easing the cost of unemployment and not forcing the laid-off to immediately go to the bottom of the economic ladder.

    Employers need to wake up and realize that the low-wage, part-time, no set schedule is NOT a way to grow an economy. Their customers are the REAL job creators, and hollowing out the middle class is a sure way to ruin.

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