Florida DEO blames ‘technology concern’ for sudden halt of some federal unemployment payments

Florida Unemployment

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — In a rare move, Florida’s unemployment agency is admitting it made a mistake that cost some recipients weeks of federal benefits.

It’s an issue 8 On Your Side has reported on multiple times. Out-of-work Floridians who had been collecting unemployment benefits suddenly saw their federal assistance stop in mid-May without warning or explanation.

After we pressed the agency multiple times, the Department of Economic Opportunity is now offering an explanation.

A spokesperson tells us that due to a “technology concern,” individuals who requested that their claims be backdated were not included in recent payment files for the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payments.

The statement went on to say: “We are working diligently to ensure these claimants are made whole as quickly as possible. At this time, claimants do not need to do anything but should continue to request benefits as long as they are unemployed or partially unemployed. The department anticipates having the issue resolved quickly and being able to provide these payments to eligible claimants.”

The DEO previously published a form allowing and even encouraging applicants to backdate their claims if website delays and other backlog issues led to a claim date not accurately reflecting their unemployment status.

But some recipients, like Barbara Rauch of Gulfport, see the state’s explanation as more of an excuse. Her federal payments stopped after May 19 but she never once tried to backdate her claim, she says.

“It’s very strange that we were all cut off on the same day, something is not right,” Rauch told 8 On Your Side. “It’s easy to say it’s a computer glitch. Fix it!”

State Representative Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando) compiled a list of more than 8,500 applicants whose federal benefits stopped suddenly after May 19.

Eskamani called it “remarkable” that DEO even admitted fault but, like Rauch, has reason to believe the backdated claim explanation isn’t the full story. Her office has heard from multiple constituents who did not attempt to backdate their claim but still had their federal benefits suddenly stop in May.

“That is such a pattern,” Eskamani said. “Floridians doing everything they’re supposed to do and yet money is still not being released to them.”

Full statement from DEO:

“After reviewing several claimant IDs, the Department has identified two technology concerns that may have prevented an individual from receiving their Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payment over the last few weeks.

Individuals who requested that their claims be backdated were not included in recent payment files for the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payments. We are working diligently to ensure these claimants are made whole as quickly as possible. At this time, claimants do not need to do anything but should continue to request benefits as long as they are unemployed or partially unemployed. The department anticipates having the issue resolved quickly and being able to provide these payments to eligible claimants.

Additionally, the department has identified that some claimants were not paid their Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payment for their waiting week. The department has identified these individuals and should have them paid their $600 federal payment within 5 business days.

LATEST ON FLORIDA’S UNEMPLOYMENT PROBLEMS:

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