TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — New numbers out Thursday from the US Department of Labor show Florida remains one of the hardest-hit states by pandemic unemployment.
Many without a job are still battling for benefits, with frustration amplified as Florida’s unemployment agency reports 100 percent of eligible applicants have been paid.
That’s because that figure doesn’t take into account those who have only been partially paid or those who have been locked out of their claims, no fault of their own. Even the DEO’s own dashboard points out that it counts applicants who may have only received one payment.
As 8 On Your Side previously reported, a mistake in late May created a payment interruption and many applicants continue to complain about missing benefits.
Then there are people like Richard Spence, for whom identity verification remains a barrier, cutting him off from benefits he should otherwise qualify for. He calls the 100 percent eligibility figure “a lie.”
Spence has been out of work since late March. Despite dozens of emails and hundreds of calls, he cannot collect unemployment because he cannot verify his identity.
“They don’t know, they can’t help me, nobody answers,” Spence lamented to 8 On Your Side by Zoom. “Time is going by, and this is something we are entitled to.”
The DEO’s ID verification tool launched a couple months ago has also failed to help him.
8 On Your Side has repeatedly asked the DEO why ID verification is a persistent barrier to benefits that isn’t easily rectified. We also asked if people like Spence have any other recourse to move their claim through.
A spokesperson did not address the first question but in response to the second question said “we would recommend they call the Customer Service Center at 1-833-FL-APPLY.”
That is the number Spence and many others have been calling for more than a month now to no avail.
We tried calling it for ourselves Thursday, only to eventually be answered by a representative who claimed the system was down and there was nothing she could do.
“I’m so desperate,” Spence told us. “I don’t know what else I can do.”
An important reminder for those people who are receiving benefits and don’t want to lose them: as of July 1, we are in a new quarter which means under DEO guidelines you must apply for a new claim if you want to remain eligible.
The DEO says it will be sending out instructions to affected claimants “soon.”
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