By: Representative Ray Rodrigues
This Covid-19 pandemic is unlike anything seen in our lifetime. I want to provide an update to you.
First, social distancing is working. The number of new reported cases over the previous ten days shows no signs of a significant increase. This means that Florida has flattened the curve.
Next, hospitalizations are slowing down, not increasing. This means that Florida will maintain the hospital capacity to work through the pandemic without our hospitals being overwhelmed like we witnessed in Italy and other areas of Europe.
The projected death toll in Florida has been reduced over 80% down to 1,363 from the previous estimate 6,770.
Despite claims that Florida is not doing enough testing, Florida actually ranks third in the nation for testing. And over 90% of those tested in Florida come back with a negative result.
This good news provides hope that Florida will be able to begin reopening the economy earlier than other states who continue to struggle to contain the spread of the pandemic.
Governor DeSantis is creating a task force to provide recommendations for the process of reopening without exacerbating the spread of the virus.
While the economy remains closed except for essential services, Florida is working to address the failures and deficiencies of our unemployment system.
The stark truth is that no system was designed to accommodate a closure that simultaneously impacts every sector of our state economy.
For perspective, the previous high for unemployment claims came in 2009 during the Great Recession, when 40,403 people applied. In the first week of the statewide closure, 74,000 applied and hundreds of thousands tried to apply.
The volume of claims have overwhelmed the capacity of the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).
To address this crisis, Governor DeSantis has directed more resources to it. DEO’s computer servers had a capacity of 20,000 applicants online at the same time. Additional servers have been brought online to increase that capacity to 120,000 online at the same time.
Next, the paper application process for unemployment has been brought back to provide another avenue for Floridians who can’t access the online portal.
Governor DeSantis has taken an “all hands on deck” approach to solving this crisis and redirected a significant number of state employees from other state agencies to assist in solving the problems with unemployment applications.
Over 2,000 state workers who had previously worked for other state agencies or specialized in other areas of government have been reassigned and trained to staff DEO call centers and to process the paper unemployment forms.
A separate website will soon come online for people who are ineligible for the state’s unemployment benefits (self-employed, independent contractors, etc.) enabling them to bypass the state’s system and access the federal checks that they are eligible for under the CARES Act passed by our federal Congress.
Although these unemployment problems aren’t solved yet, it is important for you to know that your elected representatives recognize the problem, understand how critical it is and are taking the necessary steps to solve it.
Together, we will get through this health and economic crisis.
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