As unemployment claim approval rate improves, state still won’t say what went wrong

Florida Unemployment

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida’s unemployment officials still won’t acknowledge if and what error led to the rejection of thousands of seemingly eligible unemployment claims without explanation Monday.

As of Thursday, the state is now accepting claims at a much higher rate also without explanation.

After the state took its unemployment site offline for a weekend processing marathon, two out of every five claims were denied. That’s hundreds of thousands of applicants left without an explanation, and without a promise of money they need.

That includes Fay Helminski who like so many others applied at least a month ago and appeared to qualify for both state reemployment assistance and federal pandemic unemployment benefits.

“There’s some kind of glitch in their system, obviously,” Helminski said. “I can’t pinpoint it, but there’s a glitch and they just don’t seem to want to acknowledge it.”

8 On Your Side asked the Department of Economic Opportunity on Monday if there had been some sort of mistake. A spokesperson for the DEO said no.

However, the DEO then came out the very next day and asked all rejected recipients who filed before April 5 to reapply.

So, why would the state reject seemingly eligible people? It’s something 8 On Your Side has been asking for days but the DEO still won’t acknowledge. However, in just a matter of days, the rejection rate plummeted from 40 percent to a mere 14 percent.

But it’s still not fixed, as some of those who now need to reapply can’t get through.

“I can’t get a hold of anyone, I can’t reapply because all I have is my phone,” Bridgett Lappin told 8 On Your Side. Lappin says she was forced to pawn her laptop for food.

She’s been out of work for six weeks and submitted her claim more than a month ago. Like Helminksi, Lappin was also denied without explanation Monday despite appearing to meet the criteria for state and federal benefits.

Both women fear they were booted on a technicality so the state would eventually only have to pay them federal funds, and not out Florida’s coffers.

“There’s something going on here that’s not right,” Lappin said.

When the state asked applicants to reappy, it cited a state law that says unemployment seekers must file again each fiscal quarter. Because of backlog, many claims filed in Q1 were processed in Q2.

What the state won’t acknowledge is it that alone was enough for rejection.

8 On Your Side has made multiple requests for an interview with Secretary John Satter, the man now in charge of Florida’s unemploymeny system, to discuss these issues.

So far those requests have been denied.

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