Unemployed Floridians worry as $600 federal benefits expire, payments now summarized on DEO website

According to the state’s unemployment dashboard, it’s paid more than $8.5 billion in CARES Act benefits to unemployed Floridians. But, as of last Saturday, that extra $600 a week is over.

We looked at how the decrease in unemployment benefits is impacting workers Southwest Florida Monday.

For Bonnie Armstrong, losing the extra $600 in federal unemployment benefits is going to make life much harder.

“I won’t make enough to pay my rent,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong’s rent is $1,200 a month, and receiving $275 weekly from the state won’t cut it, let alone her other bills.

Armstrong was furloughed in March from her server job in Naples. The restaurant reopened but not 100%.

“Right now, they’re running a skeleton crew,” Armstrong said. “On nights we would normally have 14 servers, they’re working with five.”

Armstrong has been spending her time taking care of her mother in Minnesota and helping other people deal with Florida’s unemployment system, running a support group on Facebook.

“We’re all looking out for each other, all trying to help each other,” Armstrong said. “I think that’s exactly why I’ve been able to get through this. If I didn’t have that, I don’t know what I would do.”

As Congress debates what the next relief bill will look like, Armstrong says she’s tired of hearing that people don’t want to work because they make more collecting benefits.

“The fact is if you’re offered your position back and you say no, you don’t get any more unemployment,” Armstrong said. “And I don’t think people understand that.”

Armstrong says she’d gladly return to work if they’d take her.

“For every job, there are hundreds of people applying,” she said. “It’s gonna be difficult.”

Monday, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s CONNECT website now allows people to track and review their previous $600 payments. According to viewer comments, some think it’s a little late considering those payments ended July 25.

We emailed the DEO to ask what took so long, and Communications Manager Trip Farmer provided the following statement:

“Over the weekend, the department was able to update benefit payment statuses to reflect the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) payments in CONNECT. To better understand a claimant’s Reemployment Assistance weekly benefit payment status, view the step by step guide, here.”

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

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

Reporter:Sara Girard
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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