ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) —As unemployment checks were spit out at a record pace after the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity system was plagued by staffing shortages, delays, and fraud claims.
Pamela Patrick, of St. Petersburg, filed her initial unemployment paperwork after she lost her sales job in 2020, but she said she is still caught in a web of issues.
“And their excuse every single time,” Patrick said. “There’s a glitch in the system.”
It was an expensive glitch for Patrick.
She said at one point, DEO alleged she owed about $11,000 for fraud she insisted she did not commit.
“After you appeal, they wait a couple of weeks or a few months and they start the cycle all over again,” Patrick said. “And you can’t get through to anyone who can really help.”
She thought the problem was solved more than once.
“They cleared me back in December,” Patrick said. “But they also cleared me before December.”
Patrick said DEO contacted her directly after 8 On Your Side asked questions about her case.
8 On Your Side also asked DEO if the agency is working with a staffing shortage like many other state departments.
Florida Commerce spokesperson Rose Hebert said she could not discuss specifics of Patrick’s case but she emphasized DEO has been trying to solve Patrick’s problems.
“We are absolutely working with her,” Hebert said.
Hebert said her team is looking into how many Covid-19 era cases there are.
Hebert advised anyone in the DEO system to check their accounts for issues and recommeded that they make sure their method of contact information is accurate.
Patrick said she would also like to know how many others are dealing with problems like the one that has kept her busy.
“I have spent hours on this,” Patrick said.
She added that it has impacted her effort to get back on solid ground financially.
“This isn’t an easy thing to do to keep going back over all the years, getting [DEO] the same information over and over and over again,” Patrick said. “I want it stopped and I want it cleared. I didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t owe them anything.”