TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – For weeks, 8 On Your Side has been taking your unemployment issues to Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity.
For the most part, DEO spokespeople have given vague answers as to why so many people can’t get information about their claims or aren’t receiving benefits.
As of Tuesday, more than a million Floridians had filed for unemployment but less than half have been paid.
So 8 On Your Side’s Victoria Price went straight to Gov. Ron DeSantis to try to get some accountability for Floridians the system has failed so far.
DeSantis spoke at a press conference in Sarasota Tuesday at a new state-run COVID-19 testing site.
One unemployment applicant, Barbara Ellis, was so desperate for answers after many failed attempts with DEO that she made a construction paper sign to try and get the governor’s attention.
The out-of-work senior from Sarasota filed in mid-March. Her claim says active and eligible but she still hasn’t received any money.
“I felt that maybe if he saw me and maybe if I stopped by, he would acknowledge me,” Ellis told 8 On Your Side.
Ellis was asked to leave before the governor’s arrival but 8 On Your Side made sure her voice was heard.
“Governor, there was a senior citizen who was kicked out of this press conference before you got here. She is so desperate for help with her unemployment claim she made you a cardboard sign. What do you say to someone in her position?” asked investigative reporter Victoria Price.
“We’ll get that information, I’ll have somebody get it, we’re happy to help,” Gov. DeSantis replied.
The governor went on to say, as he has maintained in previous press conferences, that if unemployment seekers have been waiting upwards of six weeks for resolution, the fault likely lies with their application or eligibility, not the state’s system.
But that doesn’t appear to be the case with Ellis or others 8 On Your Side has reported on. So we kept pressing, informing the governor that Ellis’ claim was in fact active and eligible, meaning his prior justification likely didn’t stand.
Visibly perturbed, the governor pledged to send over an aide after the press conference to take down Ellis’ information.
“I wasn’t involved in removing anybody,” DeSantis said.
We asked Ellis if she was satisfied with how the governor responded.
“I will be when I hear from his associates!” she said.
8 On Your Side was able to provide one of the governor’s aides Ellis’ contact information and we were assured they would address the issue the same day.
We will be following up to make sure that happens.
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