Over the past four years, Florida has imposed a series of new claims-filing requirements and procedures that have made it more difficult for involuntarily unemployed workers to apply and qualify for unemployment insurance (UI). As a consequence of procedural hurdles and drastic cuts in available benefit weeks, fewer than one in eight unemployed Floridians is currently receiving unemployment insurance, the lowest rate in the nation. This downward trend has accelerated since the introduction of a new automated filing system known as CONNECT in the fall of 2013.
Electronic filing requirements, some of which were included in state legislation enacted in 2011, have made the process of establishing UI eligibility in Florida among the most onerous in the country. Immediately after implementation of House Bill 7005 in August 2011, thousands of workers were unable to successfully complete online transactions necessary to apply and qualify for UI benefits, largely because of poor automated systems and lack of personal customer assistance. Each of these transactions could only be completed online: initial claim filing, registration with the public employment service, posting of an online resume, a 45-question math, reading, and research skills test,1 and extensive documentation of weekly work-search activity.
In the fall of 2013, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) launched, to disastrous effect, a new automated filing system known as CONNECT. Tens of thousands more claimants experienced benefit delays of two to four months, prompting the Secretary of Labor to intervene and order corrective action necessary to get benefits paid. Major problems with the design and testing of the new CONNECT system have been the subject of legislative hearings and a state audit. CONNECT is more complex and requires more individualized adjudications than the prior filing system. As a result, Florida has been among the slowest states in the nation in determining the eligibility of unemployed workers who apply for UI benefits.
Since 2011, the Florida unemployment insurance program has made it more difficult for workers to receive benefits following involuntary job loss. Key indicators of this trend include the following findings: