Comparisons of Alabama to its neighbors, particularly Florida, usually do not invite good will for Alabama. But Alabamians out of work because of the virus crisis can thank their lucky stars they were not born across the line in Florida.
The state of Florida has paid out on only 3 percent of its coronavirus unemployment claims, the Tampa Bay Times reported on April 20, drawing on a new website that finally broke through a stonewalling of information from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, which processes unemployment claims.
The Times reported that the state of Florida has processed only 162,039 claims of the more than 1.5 million filed since mid-March, when virus unemployment began to surge.
Nearly $60 million has been paid to 40,193 Floridians, said the Times, but the state has been slow to pay out the $600-per-week federal unemployment benefits. Of the $60 million, just $14.3 million is federal help.
“Since Florida’s unemployment crisis began more than a month ago, state officials have been virtually silent about how many claims have been filed, processed and paid,” the Times reported. “Officials have failed to provide details or respond to questions from reporters and lawmakers.
“Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis admitted his own department still had not given him those figures, which are essential benchmarks for tracking the state’s progress,” said the newspaper.
The Alabama Department of Labor, by comparison, has been issuing unemployment claims reports weekly.
On April 20, the ADOL reported $164.5 million has been paid to 103,453 claimants over the period March 16 to April 18. Of those funds, $132.3 million is from Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), the $600 stimulus benefit added to weekly unemployment compensation benefits.
“ADOL is working hard to get these important benefits out to Alabamians in this tremendous time of need,” said ADOL Secretary Fitzgerald Washington. “We know that there are many who have yet to be paid, and we are working to get those claims processed quickly. It’s important to note that it can take up to 21 business days to process a claim, and with the added record-setting volume, it may take longer in some cases.”
Washington also noted a new web-based tool that helps claimants track their claims. The UI Claims Tracker can be located at https://uiclaimstracker.labor.alabama.gov/