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Unemployed Floridians still wait for benefits owed to them as new stimulus package approved

A new stimulus bill means more money is on the way for unemployed people across the country, but some in Florida are still trying to collect the payments they’re already owed.

Now without 13 weeks of unemployment benefits, Julio Rivera says tough times got even tougher.

“I eventually started getting behind, owing for this month, and then owing for the next month, and then it just kept building up to where I eventually had to go.”

He and four of his kids were kicked out of their home and forced to live in his truck. Since then, a friend has taken them in.

“It was Dec. 3 when the sheriffs actually came to the door, and they were like, we have to go.”

Rivera is missing more than $3,000, and when he calls the Department of Economic Opportunity every week, he says he gets the same answer.

“They just left me hanging there, with kids, just telling me just wait.”

Rivera says he was laid off when the pandemic started and got his benefits just fine until he found a new job. He says the problems started when he got laid off again in September. Now, he still can’t find work.

“I’m a painter, I like being in construction and that involves other people, other customers. And not a lot of people want to be around other people right now.”

All he wants is to stop relying on friends, pay off his bills and get a stable roof back over his family’s head.

Without his benefits, that feels impossible.

“Just so that they can sleep on their own beds, have their own pillows, their own toys back. Just to see them happy again would be the greatest thing ever, and the income right now will be the only thing to help it immediately.”

Looking to the future, many of you are now asking what the next round of stimulus benefits will look like for Florida.

WINK News asked the DEO on Monday if you’ll need to reapply and when you should expect to get paid. A representative sent back this statement:

STATEMENT FROM DEO:

On Dec. 27, 2020, a federal COVID-19 relief package that extends and provides additional federal unemployment benefits was signed into law.

While the Department has been working diligently on these additional benefits, it must first receive guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) before changes can be fully implemented and payments can be issued, as was the case when the CARES Act was initially enacted.

The Department has been in frequent communication with USDOL and will provide more information when it becomes available.

“With the recent signing of federal COVID-19 relief, DEO has begun implementing revisions and updates for eligible Floridians seeking Reemployment Assistance and awaits the required guidelines from the U.S. Department of Labor,” said Dane Eagle Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “Our number one priority continues to be ensuring that all eligible Floridians are paid as quickly as possible, and we look forward to assisting Floridians navigate the new program extensions as they become available.”


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:Jackie Winchester
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