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Florida residents run into problems filing for unemployment as nationwide claims rise

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Posted at 3:12 PM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 23:18:33-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Two weeks ago, Elizabeth Calderon left her job. Calderon has lupus, and because of her condition and job at a grocery store, she needed to leave to protect herself from COVID-19.

Fourteen days later, Calderon still can’t file for unemployment.

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“I have to reset my pin, so I looked to see,” said Calderon. "I put my social security and forgot my pin. I didn’t get nothing. It directs me to the phone number, [but] they don’t answer. They just hang up. There’s no options, no nothing, they just hang up.”

She says the website to file has crashed several times. Calderon’s need to file comes amid skyrocketing unemployment claims nationwide.

The US Department of Labor released new numbers Thursday. Last week, 6.6 million people filed new unemployment claims, doubling the record set the week before.

“When you’re used to something and it feels really good and all of a sudden they stop everything, it’s like oh my god,” said Calderon.

At CareerSource Tampa Bay, staff have had an increase in calls, the majority asking for help with unemployment claims.

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“The week prior, we had about 600 calls,” said John Flanagan, CareerSource Tampa Bay CEO. “This week, we’re fielding anywhere from 500 to 600 calls a day between our 14 operators.”

While their offices are physically closed, staff at CareerSource are available by phone and online to help people having trouble with the process.

Flanagan says people need to stay vigilant to get their claim processed and suggests trying to file at early morning or late evening hours when the website may have slower traffic.

“We’re in completely and totally uncharted territory, and a lot of systems really aren’t set up to deal with the sheer volume of what they’re dealing with now,” said Flanagan.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity says it will soon offer paper applications for unemployment claims. The DEO has also contracted with an outside vendor to increase their call volume.