TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida’s unemployment agency will ask lawmakers for $5 million during the upcoming legislative session to hire roughly 100 additional employees to tackle the increase and complexity of pandemic-related claims.
“The additional staff will help meet the current needs of the program and our customers,” a Department of Economic Opportunity spokesperson wrote in a statement to 8 On Your Side.
Recently-appointed DEO Director Dane Eagle called hiring additional staff trained to process the complicated claims put aside due to high volume “a priority” when he spoke with us in early October. But with the legislature not in session until March, those hires won’t be made until next year, even if the money is approved.
Bill McVey of Hernando County says he’s one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of laid-off workers whose been waiting six months for benefits and says he can’t wait another six months. For 22 years, McVey was a sales executive at Lazydays RV in Seffner. But then came the pandemic in March and, at 73 years old, concerns about his health.
“I asked them to work from home and they said I couldn’t do that,” McVey explained. “I was laid off the next day.”
McVey filed for unemployment and received a few checks. But he also received a job offer at another RV lot, which he gladly accepted until that position was eliminated about three weeks later.
“I’ve sent letters, emails, phone calls,” he said. “I’ve got hundreds of hours on the phone to DEO explaining to them that I stopped working at the end of May.
But for whatever reason, McVey’s DEO account won’t update and still shows him working that new job. His benefits have been on hold now for 22 weeks, and he’s owed approximately $12,000.
McVey’s claim situation is complex but not unique. In fact, so many applicants have had benefits blocked by return to work issues that the DEO launched an effort last week solely focused on fixing them. Affected applicants will receive an email from the DEO, if they haven’t already, linked them to a quick form to fill out to help determine their eligibility for benefits. It’s unclear how long after that it may take to resolve claims.
8 On Your Side continues to hear almost daily from laid-off workers waiting six months or more for benefits due to unresolved issues with their claims. Bill McVey says they can’t afford to wait any longer.
“There’s a lot of people who have families and kids to feed, and they’re going to be in a very grim situation come Christmas,” he said. “Grim.”