According to the Orlando Sentinel, the proposed change to the unemployment law is an effort by the Department of Economic Opportunity to reduce the cost of unemployment benefits and link the claims process to the states re-employment system. In 2011, the state made sweeping changes to the unemployment laws, including eliminating claims being made over the telephone, thus requiring all benefit claims to be applied for online.
According to the Sentinel and federal labor data, since the change claim denials have gone up by more than 140 percent, with the majority of the rejections because of procedural errors by applicants. Under the new proposal, applicants would have to register with the states online jobs database call Employ Florida Marketplace. Applicants would also be required to create an online resume and provide a valid e-mail address assigned to the applicant. Department of Economic Opportunity spokesman James Miller told the Sentinel that the goal of the e-mail requirement is to get job seekers back into the workforce. Miller told the Sentinel:
The goal is to get job seekers back to work as quickly and efficiently as possible.
But not everyone see it that way. Worker advocates say the provision would add a new stumbling block for the unemployed to claim jobless benefits. They say it would affect low-income employees and those who have never had access to a computer, much less an e-mail account. Valory Greenfield of the Florida Legal Service based in Miami told the Sentinel:
This just presents an additional technical hurdle. Another barrier you have to jump over.
In the last week of December, 271,310 residents were still claiming unemployment benefits. The Pew Research Center found that 20 percent if adults do not use the internet. In the same report, Hispanics and African-Americans make up more than 25 percent of adults do not have access to the internet. Proponents of the change claim that unemployed workers are free to use computers at community centers and libraries. But critics of the change say that unemployment benefits should not be difficult to get because it is an earned benefit.
State officials say that they are not clear when the new provision would be approved.