clock menu more-arrow no yes

Why it’s so hard to get unemployment benefits

Everyone is blaming the computers, but there’s more to the story.

Although many states are allowing businesses to reopen, hundreds of thousands of people in the US are still out of work. But whether they can get the unemployment benefits they deserve depends on where they live. In some states, more than two-thirds of jobless people have received unemployment benefits. In other states, like Florida, that number is less than one in 10.

What accounts for the difference? A big part of it is Florida’s notoriously hard-to-use online system for unemployment insurance applications. But this problem isn’t just about the technology that states use to issue benefits. It’s about the ideology that drives that technology.

Check out the video above to find out more.

Sources and further reading:

Ain’t No Sunshine: Fewer than One in Eight Unemployed Workers In Florida Is Receiving Unemployment Insurance (National Employment Law Project, September 2015)

Long Lines for Unemployment: How Did We Get Here and What Do We Do Now? (National Employment Law Project, April 2020)

Chasing the American Dream: Understanding What Shapes Our Fortunes (Oxford University Press, 2014)

“How budget cuts and restrictive policies hobbled the unemployment insurance system” (Los Angeles Times, April 30, 2020)

Strengthening Unemployment Protections in America (Center for American Progress, June 16, 2016)

“Many states are ill-prepared for unemployment benefits surge” (Politico, March 19, 2020)

“New survey confirms that millions of jobless were unable to file an unemployment insurance claim” (Economic Policy Institute, April 28, 2020)

Reemployment Assistance Claims and Benefits Information System (State of Florida auditor general, March 2019)

The Automation of State Unemployment Systems (Corporate Cost Control, 2014)

“Florida blames troubled unemployment website entirely on vendor; feds heading here to help” (Tampa Bay Times, January 15, 2014)

“Not all unemployed people get unemployment benefits; in some states, very few do” (Pew Research Center, April 24, 2020)

You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube. And if you’re interested in supporting our video journalism, you can become a member of the Vox Video Lab on YouTube.