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Coronavirus Leads To Record Setting Jobless Claims In Florida

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Michelle Corum
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WJCT News
Alex Praksti , a server at Cowford Chophouse, is among those filing for unemployment.

More than 74,000 Floridians applied for unemployment benefits last week  — a tenfold increase from the previous week  — which is a record number.  Most of the claims are directly attributable to the effects of the coronavirus on the economy.  

Alex Praksti was a server assistant at Cowford Chophouse in Downtown Jacksonville.    

When the coronavirus started spreading in Jacksonville in early March, the restaurant quickly began losing business.  Praksti got fewer hours.   

Then on March 20, Cowford Chophouse closed in compliance with the governor’s executive order. That day Praksti filed for unemployment with Florida’s newly renamed Reemployment Assistance Program, but it was a struggle.

Related: Local, State, And National Coronavirus Coverage

“There are several errors on the website, like it couldn't find my social security number or what not, and the phone lines were completely booked,” he said.    

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Credit Provided by Alex Praksti
When trying to file for unemployment on the state's website Alex Praksti ran into issues as the site returned a "system issue" message.

Others have reported similar difficulties. Praksti said it took him nearly four hours to get the application filed, and he had not heard anything back by the time of this story’s publication.  Meanwhile, he is unsure how he’ll survive this economic downturn.  

“When you're out of work for weeks on end and you have all this uncertainty about what the future holds, you know, not everybody has somebody that can help them right now. So it's pretty scary.”

A record 3.28 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits nationwide last week.

"This marks the highest level of seasonally adjusted initial claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series," the Labor Department said of the latest figure. "The previous high was 695,000 in October of 1982." The Labor Department's records go back to 1967.

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Credit NPR
This chart shows the trend line for national unemployment claims.

A breakdown of unemployment claims in all 50 states, including Florida, is available in this NPR story about the nationwide jobless picture.

Michelle Corum can be reached at mcorum@wjct.org, 904-358-6308 or on Twitter at @MCorumonME.