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Please hold: Florida adds virtual 'waiting room' for unemployment website

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity says the Virtual Waiting Room is to help users get into CONNECT more efficiently.

TAMPA, Fla. — There’s a new change to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity CONNECT system.  The state has added a virtual waiting room they say will allow for a more efficient user experience.

The agency launched the new program on Monday morning and users say they were caught off guard, not understanding and not having the time to sit in front of the computer waiting for their time to enter the system.

A Nextdoor user messaged 10 Investigates’ Courtney Robinson on Monday saying he started the process at 8:45 a.m.

“I waited till 9:45 then had to leave. So just to let you know, after about two hours I had a 10-minute window to login. I missed it. Now I have to start over,” he said.

The Department of Economic Opportunity is limiting how many can use CONNECT concurrently.

They say CONNECT was initially built to hold about 1,000 concurrent users.  

Over the past few months there have been numerous upgrades.  

According to DEO, it can now accommodate roughly 80,000 users.  

Still the site has been overwhelmed with claimants reporting troubles accessing the site or the site crashing in the middle of checking claim status or as they recertify the need for benefits.

Enter the virtual waiting room.

“The CONNECT Virtual Waiting Room allows claimants to reserve their place in line while other claimants access the system,” said a DEO spokesperson.

If CONNECT reaches its max occupancy, you get put on virtual hold.  When it’s your turn you have 10 minutes to log in to your CONNECT account.

We tried on Tuesday morning.  It took about 17 minutes from joining the waiting room to our window opening.

If you miss that window, you will need to start over.

Is that more efficient?

10 Investigates asked DEO since launching, how many successfully got into the CONNECT system on Monday and for the week prior to the change what those numbers were.

“I’m not sure how long it will take to get the statistics you have requested, but we will do our best to meet your deadlines,” they responded.

We took some of your questions to DEO and they did provide clarity.

Does your spot in the virtual waiting room impact when you will get benefits?  

No.

“In an effort to ensure all claimants are able to access their accounts and complete necessary tasks effectively and efficiently, DEO limits the amount of concurrent users in the system at one time. The Virtual Waiting Room is simply to help users get into CONNECT more efficiently and has no impact on your timeline to receive a benefit.”

If you miss the 10 minute window, will you lose out on claiming benefits for the week?  

No.

“If you miss your 10 minute time slot, you will simply need to get in line again. We recommend keeping your browser open while trying to access CONNECT.”

Does this impact those filing for unemployment assistance for the first time? 

No.

This is for “individuals who have a claim for Reemployment Assistance, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation need to log-in to CONNECT. If CONNECT has reached its maximum number of users, claimants can hold their place in line while they wait their turn.”

DEO says if you need to file a claim for Reemployment Assistance, you should click here and click on "File a Claim for State or Federal Reemployment Assistance Benefits." 

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