WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, Fla., launched an online survey asking Central Floridians to provide details about their experiences with Florida’s Reemployment Assistance Program – the state’s program to provide unemployment insurance benefits to eligible unemployed workers. The survey asks Central Floridians to rate their experience with the application process and to provide feedback on any problems they encountered. The survey, available at murphy.house.gov/coronavirus, closes at midnight on Wednesday, April 20, 2020. Murphy said she intends to share the data with the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, congressional leaders, Governor Ron DeSantis, Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried, and members of the Florida Legislature. Murphy said she will also publicly publish the data on her website.
“My office has been flooded with calls from constituents who are having problems trying to get the unemployment insurance benefits they so desperately need in this COVID-19 crisis. Their frustration – and often desperation – is evident and heartbreaking,” said Murphy. “This online survey will help me and other leaders understand what kinds of problems Central Floridians are facing and hopefully add additional pressure to state leaders to get the system fully functioning. Data is power, and I’m asking any Central Floridians who have interacted with the unemployment system since Feb. 1 to take this survey and tell me about your experiences. We will share the data with state and federal leaders to identify problems and find solutions.”
Last week, Murphy, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, called for an independent federal investigation of Florida’s unemployment compensation (UC) program. In a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Inspector General, Murphy cited the program’s “collapse” during the COVID-19 crisis, which occurred largely as a result of profound flaws in the state’s online application portal that were once considered positive features by state leaders who were intent on establishing barriers to access. She also described years of misuse by the State of Florida of federal funds that were meant to sustain and strengthen the system. Earlier this month, Murphy also led a bipartisan letter calling on Governor Ron DeSantis to make swift improvements to the state’s UC program.
Between 2010 and 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor provided a total of about $1.6 billion in congressionally-appropriated funds to the State of Florida to administer its UC program. Moreover, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Congress recently enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which authorized the U.S. Department of Labor to make emergency administrative grants to help state unemployment offices handle the surge in new unemployment claims. Of this amount, the federal grant to Florida is about $60 million. Furthermore, Congress provided major funding through that law and the subsequent CARES Act to increase the amount and duration of unemployment benefits in Florida and every other state.
“While other states are indeed seeing a massive influx of new unemployment claims, Florida’s system is plagued by both administrative incompetence and intentional actions by this and previous administrations to make it difficult for residents to access earned benefits. The State of Florida can and must do better,” said Murphy.