How to file for unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic

Many people are unable to work due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Although there are state and federal measures to help those affected financially, in the more immediate future people can apply for unemployment benefits.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced on Thursday more than 74,000 Floridians have applied for unemployment benefits last week, a tenfold increase from the previous week, as the spread of the novel coronavirus shuttered the state’s theme parks and visitors stayed away from its hotels and airports.

[RELATED: FedEx stores in Florida to provide free printing and mailing of reemployment assistance applications]

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In the United States, nearly 3.3 million workers have applied for unemployment benefits — more than four times the previous record set in 1982.

[RELATED: Interactive map shows Florida coronavirus cases | Income tax filing deadline moved to July 15 from April 15 | Florida schools offer free meals to students during extended coronavirus closures ]

In Florida, these benefits are called re-employment assistance and are designed to help people who were recently unemployed because they were laid off, terminated, or left their employer.

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People who have been laid off or laid off due to COVID-19 should apply for these benefits as soon as possible. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has released information about applying for re-employment benefits amid the pandemic. Click here for more details.

Note: The Florida website and support lines are on hold and many people are reporting wait times of several hours or cannot log in to file. The DOE is working to hire more staff and add more servers to handle increased demand.

Who qualifies due to the coronavirus, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity:

  • People who have been ordered to self-quarantine by a medical professional or government agency.

  • Those who are laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period by their employer due to COVID-19.

  • Those caring for an immediate family member who has been diagnosed with the virus.

Here are the steps to apply for re-employment benefits and what you will need:

  1. You will need: social security number, driver’s license or ID card, your last 18 months of employment, including name of employer, reason for separation, income and dates of employment . If you are not a US citizen you will also need work authorization, military employees will need a DD-214 Member 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8 and government employees federal will need an SF 8 or SF 50.

  2. Your application will then be reviewed to determine if you qualify.

  3. Following your request, claimants must log into the CONNECT system every two weeks to request payment of benefits. You will receive a date at the end of your application telling you when to return to CONNECT.

The video below walks you through the process step by step.

What do the benefits include?

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Eligible recipients can receive between $32 and $275 per week, depending on their previous earnings.

Currently, recipients can receive benefits for 12 weeks, however, this is based on Florida’s unemployment rate before the COVID-19 outbreak. If the unemployment rate increases, the number of weeks will also increase.

Governor Ron DeSantis could also take steps to extend benefits due to the coronavirus.

[Coronavirus relief money: How much you could receive and how the government will get it to you]

Be advised: expect long wait times

People who need help filing a disability claim or have questions can call 1-800-681-8102. Please be advised that due to the high call volume due to COVID-19, candidates wait times can be long and the website can be slow.

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A spokeswoman for the Department of Economic Opportunities said: “all states are experiencing a high volume of calls and requests for re-employment assistance. Many states across the country use the same provider for verification of information, although no system is prepared for the overnight increase in claims filed, this system is working, but slowly.

The Economic Opportunity Department is working to hire more staff to alleviate the issue and better serve individuals and businesses impacted by COVID-19, Communications and External Affairs Director Tiffany Vause said.

Additionally, the call center will be open 7 days a week, starting March 21, and the agency will allow overtime for its employees to ensure additional capacity to better serve Floridians whose jobs have been affected by COVID-19, Vause said in an email.

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