CareerSource Southwest Florida will expand its services to aid individuals applying for unemployment. That includes helping reset pin numbers with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity website,
An executive order issued Thursday by Gov. Ron DeSantis authorizes local workforce boards with CareerSource Florida to reset pins and help individuals file for benefits. That comes after record unemployment claims in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic have crashed the state website and many individuals found themselves locked out of accounts.
Joe Paterno, executive director for CareerSource Southwest Florida, said his organization hopes to get as many staffers trained to help as possible. Right now, about five employees with the local workforce board have authorization to reset pins now. But the organization has plans to train at least 45 more people to help with unemployment claims.
That many signed up for Thursday training, but the session again overwhelmed the state’s system. “It crashed so that training didn’t take place,” Paterno explained at a Friday press conference.
Now, workers are signed up to take the training in smaller groups, and he hopes between 15 and 25 complete that today. At that point, the DEO can authorize individuals to help with benefits.
For the moment, Paterno said a phone system has been set up so individuals can help people remotely. That system is set up so that when a call is placed, it will be forwarded to the first available staffer available.
“Be patient,” Paterno advised. “I’m sure were going to have a few glitches.”
With volunteers in five counties services by CareerSource Southwest Florida, Paterno remains hopeful individuals can he helped using only remote service.
But he’s also looking at a plan to reopen physical centers if necessary. Physical locations have been closed because of the pandemic, and if they do reopen, he said every measure will taken to enforce six-foot social distancing at the workplace and to provide ample disinfectant to keep facilities clean and healthy.
DeSantis has also authorized the use of paper applications for claims, something DEO Executive Director Ken Lawson requested as state systems became overwhelmed. Paterno noted the executive order authorized applications via telephone, and while that hasn’t been implemented yet, he’s preparing for that as well. He notes before DEO took all benefit claims online only, individuals would apply by internet, phone or paper.
Returning to paper will bring with it certain security concerns. Paterno wants to find a way to easily distribute applications in the community, but will also need to set up a method for individuals to drop off completed applications, ideally without human interaction. But with so much personal information contained on applications, he wants to make certain any method of receiving applications secures them until CareerSource staff can obtain them and send them to be processed.
Paterno made clear that while individuals at CareerSource can help individuals file for benefits, the applications will be processed at the state. Staff at the local workforce board cannot determine eligibility or figure what level of benefits anyone will receive.
CareerSource Florida President Michelle Dennard issued a statement saying it was important the agency step up to help individuals laid off for reasons completely out of their control.
“In times of crisis, and as we enter recovery, please know each of Florida’s local workforce development boards, our CareerSource Florida network partners, are here for you,” Dennard said.
“As Governor Ron DeSantis has directed, the CareerSource Florida network, which includes 24 local workforce development boards and 100 career centers statewide, is here to help Floridians access Reemployment Assistance, evaluate skills and connect with employers who are hiring now and as we move forward.”