South Florida COVID-19 Update — April 17, 2020

As we head into the second full month grappling with the COVID-19 outbreak in Florida, nothing is more important than having access to reliable, factual information. 

At Steinger, Greene & Feiner, we’re dedicated to ensuring that our community has trustworthy information and resources to help during this emergency. We will continue to provide weekly updates on the evolving situation to help you make informed decisions.

Our South Florida personal injury lawyer team will be on call during the outbreak if you have any questions about a recent injury, an ongoing claim, or your current personal injury case. Contact us by calling (800) 431-684 or using the contact information for an office near you. Schedule a free, no-obligation case review with us today.

Here are some of the top stories regarding COVID-19 in South Florida:

As COVID-19 Deaths Top 600, Gov. DeSantis Plans to “Reopen” the State

South Florida hospitals are still grappling with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak as 21,367 cases are confirmed statewide. More than half of those are in South Florida. With 20 million residents, Florida has received test results for roughly one in 100 residents. 

However, the full extent of the outbreak is still unclear due to a backlog of test results and a lack of antibody testing. The latter helps in determining whether or not the patient has been exposed to the novel coronavirus.

Wednesday, April 15 saw the largest number of COVID-19 cases admitted in Miami-Dade hospitals since the outbreak reached Florida on March 1. Deaths at long-term care facilities topped 122 while the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office received two refrigerated trucks in anticipation of a spike in fatalities.

There are some positive signs, too. According to data from various counties, hospitals throughout South Florida released more patients Tuesday and Wednesday than any day since the outbreak began. Furthermore, over 40% of hospital beds statewide are available as the state prepares to hit its “peak” sometime next week.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state and local leaders are looking at ways to “reopen” the state’s beaches, clubs, and vacation destinations to stimulate Florida’s battered economy. With social distancing efforts helping to contain the outbreak and prevent overloading hospitals, he says it’s time to start looking at ways to get Floridians back to work.

“We will examine what statistical metrics must be met before resuming any activities and will consider what portion of the restrictions to keep in place, depending on conditions,” Gov. DeSantis said in a statement released Wednesday, April 15.

Source: The Miami Herald

Unemployment Claims Top 22 Million Applications in Less Than a Month, Setting New Record

Over 5.25 million Americans filed for unemployment claims last week, bringing the U.S. total for April up to 22 million. The number was down from the previous week’s 6.6 million. However, each of the past four weeks – including 3.9 million for the first week and 6.9 million for the second – all obliterated the previous one-week record of 695,000 set in 1982. 

No recent recession or even the Great Depression of the 1930s saw as many Americans collecting unemployment benefits. This makes for an unprecedented sense of unease about how the economy will play out once anti-contagion measures are lifted.

Florida saw another 181,283 claim benefits last week. This number comes despite problems many had trying to access the claims website and helpline. Overloaded servers and overwhelmed operators meant thousands were unable to file any claims or get assistance. The state has added extra computer servers and hired additional operators to deal with the increased demand.

According to the latest information from the U.S Census, self-employed workers make up 1.16 million of the state’s 10 million-plus labor force. Florida pays $275 per week in benefits, and the recently passed Federal stimulus adds another $600 per week. Furthermore, the federal government will supply funds for an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits.

Gov. DeSantis did provide some relief in the form of relaxing rules for unemployment claimants. The biweekly requirement to demonstrate that you are actively seeking work has been temporarily suspended.

In response to the multitude of problems citizens have had navigating the unemployment claims process, Gov. DeSantis announced Wednesday that the Department of Economic Opportunity, which handles the unemployment system, will have a new overseer. Current executive director Ken Lawson will stay in his current position, but the department will answer to Department of Management Services Secretary Jonathan Satter.

Anyone interested in filing a new claim for unemployment relief can visit the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity claims portal.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, ibid.

Applying for Unemployment Claims: Who’s Eligible and How to File

This information comes from the State of Florida’s website. To better assist residents, changes have been made to the process.

Eligibility:

  • Must have lost your job through no fault of your own, i.e. you haven’t quit for personal reasons, or you weren’t terminated for malicious misconduct.
  • Must be totally or partially unemployed; that is, your hours were reduced or you’re a part-time worker who can’t find additional work.
  • Must have earned at least $3,400 before taxes beginning 18 months prior to your claim

Preparing Your Claim, You’ll Need:

  • Social Security number
  • Driver’s license or state ID number
  • Information on your employment over the past 18 months, including:
  • Employer names, addresses, and phone numbers
  • Dates of first and last days of work
  • Gross earnings before taxes
  • Reason for separation
  • FEIN number from your W2 or 1099 tax forms or employer details from paystub

Filing Your Claims:

To begin the claims process, all claims must be filed within one week of becoming unemployed. The one-week delay in receiving benefits has been waived due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Applications can be completed online and should take about 30-60 minutes to complete. To ease application procedure, the state has set up a mobile-friendly site and waived the “online-only” requirement. FedEx is assisting with this process by providing free printing and mailing for applications at over 100 locations statewide. Mail your application (in blue or black ink) to:

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
P.O. Box 5350
Tallahassee, FL 32314-5350

For assistance or questions, call the Reemployment Assistance Hotline at (800) 204-2418.

Need Help? Call Experienced South Florida Injury Attorneys If You Are Hurt or Have Legal Questions

Steinger, Greene & Feiner will continue operations during the outbreak to serve our communities. If you have recently been injured or have an ongoing injury case, call us at (800) 431-6481. We can provide you with guidance on your legal options for seeking the maximum compensation available.

We know that during this outbreak household budgets are stretched thin and quality health care comes with long wait times. We want to be there to help you and your family obtain compensation for medical costs, lost wages, and more if you are hurt or on the mend.

Speak to a knowledgeable South Florida personal injury attorney near you by calling (800) 431-6841 or contacting us online to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.