Feds: Florida's online unemployment applications violate civil rights

Posted By Kristen Butler, UPI.com  |  April 25, 2013 at 4:59 PM
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The U.S. Department of Labor's Civil Rights Center (CRC) determined Thursday that parts of Florida's unemployment program violate applicants' civil rights, making it especially difficult for the disabled and those with low English proficiency to receive benefits.

The legislature made changes 2011, pushed by Governor Rick Scott, eliminating paper and phone applications, causing accessibility issues for the disabled and those with little to no computer access.

The online unemployment insurance applications were then made English-only. The state is said to have failed to provide complete instructions in languages other than English, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

In addition to moving the process online, applicants had to take a "skills test" and solve 45 math and reading problems or be denied benefits.

After the 2011 law took effect, claim denials due to procedural error rose more than 400 percent. At 16 percent, Florida recently ranked lowest in the nation for the number of eligible people receiving jobless benefits. Only 43 percent of those Floridians who applied for benefits in 2012 ever received a first payment, compared to a national average of 70 percent.

The CRC report found such obstacles to benefits to be in violation of applicants' civil rights, reports The Miami Herald.

Florida has agreed to enter into negotiations with the CRC to help unemployed workers who have been disenfranchised by the 2011 changes. Failure to do so could result in civil action by the U.S. Attorney General’s office and loss of funding for Florida’s federal unemployment insurance program.

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