TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Governor Ron DeSantis is once again defending the progress of the state's unemployment system.
Officials with Gov. DeSantis' office says more than $2 billion in unemployment benefits have been distributed to more than 896,000 Floridians. But last Friday, after Gov. DeSantis was asked why so many people who filed in March say they haven't paid, he asked for the applicants' names. On Monday, a list compiled by several journalists -- including ABC Action News' Heather Leigh -- on social media had about 5,000 people.
The journalists took to Twitter over the weekend, asking people to fill out a survey regarding their unemployment applications.
“There are a number of people who are reporting that they have been unable to receive the benefits they believe they are entitled to," said labor and employment expert Ryan Barack. ”The survey asks for basic information, plus a claimant ID, so officials at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) can look them up in the system."
But when a reporter asked Gov. DeSantis if he got the list Monday morning. He then suggested it was the reporter's job to vet those applications for social security numbers (SSN) and verify if they are valid applicants.
“I think it’s your responsibility, if you’re representing that there is someone in March who hasn’t been paid, to tell your viewers whether that someone is a valid applicant or not,” said Gov. DeSantis.
“The role of reporters is not to verify applicants,” said Ryan Barack, a labor and employment expert.
He says sharing your SSN can be very risky.
“No one should share their social security number in that way, you would be opening yourself up for identity theft,” he said.
Barack is also a board-certified attorney and says he can’t even help sort through claims for his own clients.
“The connect system is supposed to have a feature that allows third party reps like lawyers to access their clients accounts. We have been unable to get that to work,” he said.
After not hearing back from the DEO all day — we finally got a response about whether the Governor has sent over peoples applications for review:
The Department of Economic Opportunity is prioritizing processing and paying complete and eligible claims as quickly as possible. We are happy to follow-up with as many individuals as we can, but as you know we have very limited resources and want to be sure that the individuals that you and other members of the press have sent have actually applied for Reemployment Assistance in Florida and have a valid claim. Please be sure to include an individual’s name, claimant ID and a valid means of getting back to them, not a social media account.
Visit the Reemployment Assistance Claims Dashboard on our website at FloridaJobs.org to see the most up-to-date numbers. We break out how many claims have been received, how many have been deemed eligible and how many have received payment. This number updates daily.