Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has admitted what most Floridians already knew: the state’s unemployment system sucks.
During an interview Tuesday with CBS Miami, the Pro-Trump governor expressed his disdain with the state’s troubled unemployment system, implying that he believed the system was designed to discourage people from seeking the benefits altogether.
“I think that was the animating philosophy,” DeSantis said. “I mean, having studied how it was internally constructed, I think the goal for whoever designed it was let’s put as many kind of pointless roadblocks along the way, so people just say, ‘Oh, the hell with it, I’m not going to do that.”
This declaration comes as a surprise considering that the governor has downplayed the severity of the dire unemployment situation in Florida.
From the beginning of the pandemic through April, 268,000 people who applied for unemployment benefits were denied, which is about 40% of applicants. The state provided little assistance, telling people to simply apply again. However, due to issues with the website, people were told to call a helpline. This created high call volumes, resulting in very few calls being answered. In fact, just 1 percent of the 864,000 calls during the last week of March were answered. The state responded by contracting companies to provide up to 1,250 call center workers to help process the claims.
Some progress has been made. As of the beginning of July, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity reported that 93% of unique claims had been processed, but more than 180,000 claims still hadn’t been processed, according to NBC Miami. Sadly, there’s no way of knowing how many people gave up on applying after the many hiccups with the system.
During DeSantis’s first year in office in 2019, an audit of the state’s unemployment website was conducted, showing major issues. However, DeSantis told CBS Miami that he was unaware of the audit. “Nothing ever reached my desk.”
Still, there is much work left to be done. As recently as last month, unemployed residents in Florida reported having trouble accessing benefits. Despite this, DeSantis resisted calls from Democratic U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Ron Wyden of Oregon for the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate Florida’s unemployment system.
However, DeSantis is still determined to make the benefits easier for people to access benefits.
“And, you know, for me, let’s decide on what the benefit is, and let’s get it out as efficiently as possible. You know, we shouldn’t necessarily do these roadblocks to do it, so we have cleared a lot of those. But I think going forward; I want all our systems, including unemployment, to be user friendly. And it was not user friendly,” he said.
Florida’s unemployment rate as of June was 10.4 percent.