Many in SWFL wait for benefits, while governor says unemployment improving

The state’s unemployment website continues to leave many people in the region and throughout the state frustrated and without any payments.

Florida says it has paid over 425,000 claims, which is about 45% of all claims.

We continue to look at what’s being done to get people their money.

A Tallahassee judge recently received 1,081 pages of emails that describe individual frustrations and struggles to file for unemployment in Florida. Two lawyers gave every page to the judge as part of their emergency motion demanding the state pay people now.

For his part, Gov. Ron DeSantis publicly said things are getting better Friday during a news conference. He said the unemployment system is on the right track.

“We need to do more, but we are much better than where we were a month ago,” DeSantis said.

Tell that to people such as Marie Hinds who applied March 25 and was found eligible but hasn’t seen a cent in state benefits because her weeks are “disqualified.”

“Not even one time have I been able to speak with a live person,” Hinds said.

Franklin Speed applied mid-March and was recently found ineligible, and he doesn’t know why. Now, he’s waiting to see if federal payments will come through for him, his wife and 5-year-old son.

“I just don’t understand why they’re taking so long,” Speed said. “It’s like me and my wife are going back and forth. Every day we talk about it. But like we don’t understand.”

When reporters pressed DeSantis about this, he pointed to the past.

“There’s gonna be a whole investigation that needs to be done about how the State of Florida could’ve paid 77 million for this thing,” DeSantis said. “However, many years ago they did.”

The lawyers responsible for two class actions on unemployment told us Thursday, that’s why they’re also suing the company that created the system in 2013.

“They are not going to get out from under this by washing their hands of it like Pontius Pilate while people are hanging on crosses,” attorney Gautier Kitchen said.

People right here in Southwest Florida are depending on relief that they don’t know will ever come.

“I’m a single mom, so it’s me and my daughter against the world,” Hinds said. “This is something that if I didn’t have a couple thousand dollars saved, now that money is running out.”

The company that designed the system says the lawsuit has no merit.

And the governor and Florida Department of Economic Opportunity told us they don’t comment on pending litigation.

“Feed myself, or pay all my rent,” Speed said. “It’s a tough choice to have to make.”

Latest updates from DEO

The DEO is waiving certain state requirements for reemployment assistance. The online work registration and work search requirements will continue to be suspended. The DEO is also allowing applicants to modify their file date if they would like to.

  • Friday May 1, DEO extended Emergency Order 20-011 waiving certain state requirements for Reemployment Assistance. The online work registration and work search requirements of section 443.091, F.S. will continue to be suspended consistent with the “emergency flexibility” guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Labor. These actions will enable DEO to move quickly to expedite Reemployment Assistance payments as Floridians go back to work. These suspensions shall expire on May 9, 2020.
  • DEO recognizes that Floridians have had a hard time applying for Reemployment Assistance due to no fault of their own. If a claimant would like to request to modify their claim filing effective date, they should visit and select the link “Request to Modify Claim (Application) Filing Effective Date.”

Two Florida senators hosted a Facebook LIVE question and answer about Florida’s unemployment Thursday with Secretary John Satter with Florida Department of Management Services.

Satter said the state’s DEO website is not ready to process benefits for people who file 1099 tax forms, such as contractors or gig workers. He says the DEO is preparing a link for those people, but it’s not ready yet.

“The only people that would get the link to that are 1099 workers or gig workers,” Satter said during the live discussion. “If you’re a W-2 worker, you’re gonna go through the traditional reemployment system’s program.”

Based on Satter’s statements, it could be another week before the state is ready to process the applications for contractors and gig workers.

We know there’s much frustration out there because many of you who can’t get through to the state call or email us. And, every day, we take your concerns straight to the DEO.

For ongoing updates and information on unemployment, follow WINK News Investigative Reporter Sara Girard on Twitter and Facebook.

She also updates the FAQ: Unemployment Resources page as information is received.

Reporter:Sara Girard
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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