Hundreds of Florida Residents Line Up for Unemployment Benefits as Electronic Systems Crash

Hundreds of people were forced to closely line up outside a Florida library to get paper applications for unemployment benefits as the state's website and hotline struggled to cope with the influx of new applicants.

Local news footage showed the huge line of people outside the John F. Kennedy Library in Hialeah, in southern Florida, extending down the street after the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity rolled out the option on Tuesday to apply for benefits using paper applications as historic levels of unemployment are reached amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The proximity of those in line goes against the social distancing guidelines issued to help people protect themselves against COVID-19.

Jessica Tellez said she had been waiting in line for hours to pick up forms for her family.

"My dad is old. He can't come out," she told Local 10. "Everybody out here is risking their lives to get these applications. It's very hard to do it online because everybody is applying online and the website is crashing."

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Local 10 noted that a Hialeah police officer who arrived to hand out forms to those in line was quickly surrounded by a large crowd.

Hialeah commissioner Carl Zogby said authorities struggled to get the hundreds of people to comply with the distancing guidelines while they were in the queue.

"All we're trying to do is get enough applications here today, so those people who have been waiting in line for a long time can get out and get back into the safety of their homes," Zogby told WSVN.

"We've tried to tell them, 'stay in your car, stay apart,' but we can't force them to do it, unfortunately. We're trying to get them to comply, and this is the best we've been able to do, so now, we've got to get them out of here as quickly as possible."

Raymond Thetford was forced to get a paper application after having trouble applying through the website for weeks.

"They're saying there's no copies in English," Thetford said. "They said they're calling to get some probably in another half an hour. It seems like there's no end to this thing. Everywhere you go, there is some obstacle."

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced on Monday that changes have been made to the unemployment system in order to help cope with the rise in demand.

DeSantis said the computer system's capacity has been increased to handle around 120,000 simultaneous connections, double the peak usage seen in recent weeks, and 750 more state employees will be trained to deal with the number of phone calls.

There were 3.8 million calls made to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity last week, 50 percent more than during the entirety of 2019.

"It is imperative that my team can provide multiple avenues to Floridians who have lost their jobs and been impacted by COVID-19," Ken Lawson, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, said in a statement.

"We are all hands-on deck throughout the state working with every state agency and resource we have, and we will not rest until the issues are resolved."

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(File photo) Woman uses her computer to fill out the application for unemployment benefits after being laid off from her job at the Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport on March 27, 2020 in Hollywood, Florida. Joe Raedle

There are nearly 400,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world, with 12,910 deaths according to Johns Hopkins University. A total of 22,496 people have managed to recover from the virus.

The map below, provided by Statista, shows the confirmed COVID-19 cases around the world as of April 7.

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Statista

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.
Hundreds of Florida Residents Line Up for Unemployment Benefits as Electronic Systems Crash | U.S.