TALAHASSEE, Fla. -- The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) has extended its waiver for online work registration and work search requirements.
According to DEO's announcement on Friday afternoon, the department extended Emergency Order 20-011, which waives certain state requirements for Floridians to qualify for reemployment assistance.
DEO said in a press release that "The online work registration and work search requirements of section 443.091, F.S. will continue to be suspended consistent with the "emergency flexibility" guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The department added the extension of the emergency order will "enable DEO to move quickly to expedite Reemployment Assistant payments as Floridians go back to work."
The waiver of these restrictions will expire on May 9. As of Thursday, April 30, DEO says it has verified more than 960,000 claims and paid 426,623 of those claimants for a total of nearly $600 million.
You can click here for the latest on DEO's reemployment assistance.
DEO had been under heavy scrutiny over the last couple of weeks as thousands of Floridians who applied for unemployment were told weeks after submitting that they were not eligible to receive state money.
NEW SITE FOR RETROACTIVE PAY
On Friday, DEO confirmed to ABC Action News' I-Team that they launched a new web page that makes sure Floridians who applied for unemployment are paid retroactively to when they lost their jobs, not to when they were able to apply.
You can click here for the link to DEO's new page.
Floridians who have already applied for unemployment can use that new site to adjust their claim filing effective date. Your filing effective date can be backdated to the day you lost your job, as long as it is after March 9, which was the effective date of Executive Order 20-52, in which Gov. DeSantis declared a public health emergency.
If your claim is backdated and you are eligible, the maximum duration of state Reemployment Assistance benefits is 12 weeks and will not change.
These are a list of important factors to remember that the DEO says may impact the maximum benefit for which you are eligible:
• CARES Act Benefit: Is a per-week additional payment known as Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC). By law, this additional federal benefit does not begin until March 29, 2020.
• Waiting Week: Additionally, the “waiting week” will not be paid for claims that were filed prior to March 29, 2020. The “waiting week” is the standard one-week period between the filing date and the beginning of benefit payments. Governor DeSantis has waived the waiting week for weeks beginning March 29th, 2020. If your date of application is prior to March 29th, 2020, the waiting week still applies.
• If you intend to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), you do not need to request a modification to your claim filing date. If you do request to backdate your application prior to April 5, 2020, pursuant to the requirements of the CARES Act, 20 C.F.R. 625.4, and section 443.036 F.S., you may be required to file another application before you can submit your PUA application.
Please see the following examples to assist you in making this decision:
• If your claim date is adjusted, and you are eligible, any weeks of benefits paid out for claim weeks beginning March 8, 2020 through March 22, 2020, will not have the additional $600 included. Based on the dates in this example, you will be paid two weeks without the additional $600 and 10 weeks with the additional $600. Please note that claim weeks are Sunday to Saturday.
• If your claim effective date is March 29, 2020, or later and you are eligible, you may receive 12 weeks of RA benefits plus an additional $600 per week for each of the 12 weeks.
The unemployment system continues to draw scrutiny from both sides of the aisle. Gov. DeSantis announced in a press conference Friday that the unemployment system needs to be investigated.
Rep. Anna Eskamani said the Democratic Party will be proposing reforms of the unemployment system in the next legislative session.
“It’s not appropriate for Floridians to use a broken website... There is a necessary change no matter what the volume is, and we don’t know when another pandemic could happen, we don’t know when another hurricane could happen in the state. We need to have strong safety nets that can handle a quick escalation if necessary, and at this point Florida has not proven that we’re ready for any of this," said Rep. Eskamani, (D - Orlando).
Meanwhile, state legislators are taking it upon themselves to help Floridians get answers from the DEO. Rep. Mike Beltran and Sen. Ed Hooper both say the unemployment problems are issues their staff are addressing every day.
“The state of Florida and I think the federal government as well, remain committed to helping people get through this difficult time," said Rep. Beltran, (R - Lithia).
Rep. Beltran said if a Floridian is still struggling getting answers from the DEO, they can contact one of the state legislators with their claim information, and that legislator will be able to reach out to the DEO themselves to get answers for individuals.