TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A massive influx of furloughed employees from the Magic Kingdom might be able to avoid an initial registration step with the state’s overwhelmed unemployment-compensation system.
Also, the effort to streamline the process could be made available to other companies that know large numbers of workers are facing temporary unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said more than 70,000 Walt Disney Co. employees, who will soon be furloughed, could have their personal information downloaded directly from the company into the state’s CONNECT online unemployment system.
“They wouldn’t get any special place in line. Whoever is applying is going to go through that way,” DeSantis told reporters Tuesday. “But I think when you know you’re going to have a massive amount of people from one employer, and that’s announced, we can work with them to get that information and get it through the system. I think that would probably be better for everyone.”
While complaints continue to roll in about busy phones and the online system crashing while people try to file unemployment claims, DeSantis said the state might be able to download the information about Disney workers late at night, when the system is less active.
Disney closed its theme parks March 12 but is continuing to pay workers through Sunday.
Earlier this week, the Service Trades Council Union, which represents about 40,000 Disney workers, issued a statement critical of the state’s unemployment system, saying “the online application is terrible.”
DeSantis defended efforts to bolster the system, which he said has been able to handle “hundreds of thousands of successful submissions.”
His comment came as the first $600 weekly unemployment checks that are part of a federal stimulus law went out Tuesday. The federal money is in addition to Florida’s benefits, which total a maximum of $275 a week for 12 weeks.
Contractors and gig workers who may not qualify for state unemployment benefits must still go through the state system to apply for the federal relief.
DeSantis said 1,000 people are now handling consumer calls. Also, paper applications have been made available, and about 60 computer servers have been brought in to bolster the online system.
“We deal with it every single day, prodding for improvements any way we can,” DeSantis said.
Last Thursday DeSantis said 225,755 initial claims had been filed since the previous Sunday, putting the state on pace to top the record 228,484 claims filed during the week ending March 28.
The U.S. Department of Labor estimated that 169,885 jobless claims had been filed in Florida during the week ending April 4. Updated numbers from the state Department of Economic Opportunity.
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The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.