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Florida's unemployment rate triples as troubles loom with CONNECT

New data shows Florida's unemployment rate tripled between March and April. DEO has had troubles processing claims and shared personal information from some.

TAMPA, Fla. — We're getting a better idea of just how many Floridians have been out of work during the pandemic. 

New data shows the state's unemployment rate reached a record high in April at nearly 13 percent. 

That was about triple the rate back in March when social distancing started, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. 

In Tampa, the unemployment rate was 13.1 percent, up 10.1 percent from a year ago.

While there have been problems with the ability to file on the state's unemployment website, the governor says the state has paid $2.8 billion in claims. He says he is watching what happens with the next stimulus bill in Washington which might offer an incentive to return to work.

“I think what they should consider letting people take a full lump sum like if they are entitled to a certain amount of money, over however many weeks, just give it to them and then let people go back to work so they can get a big lump sum from unemployment and they can go back to work and make money that way. That could create a good incentive to get people back in the workforce,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said.

A reporter attempted to ask the governor about a DEO data breach during a stop in Jacksonville Friday, but he had no comment. 

Sen. Jason Pizzo says he talked with some at DEO Friday and the breach that impacted 98 people was not a hack. He says he was told an email containing the applicants’ information was sent to someone who doesn't have the authority to have that information. It was part of server test. 

A spokesperson for the DEO said the agency is offering free identity protection services to those affected by the breach.

Meanwhile, a judge in Tallahassee wants to see evidence to determine whether to dismiss parts of a class-action lawsuit filed against the DEO and the company that made the unemployment website CONNECT. 

Attorneys for DEO and Deloitte filed a motion to dismiss parts of it saying the state doesn't have an obligation to each individual claim, that the availability of benefits is purely conditional. 

An attorney representing those who are out of work says the state has not caught up on paying claims. There will be an evidentiary hearing next week.

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