TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Nearly twice as many Floridians filed for unemployment last week compared to the week prior, according to new data released Thursday.
The U.S. Department of Labor says 129,408 new unemployment claims were filed in Florida between July 5-11, compared to 66,941 the week prior. It comes as a statewide surge in coronavirus cases forces businesses to close or cut hours.
But as claims go up, benefits are about to go down significantly. A supplemental $600 a week in benefits from the federal government, known as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, will end on July 25.
While losing that will make a big difference for the unemployed, some Floridians are still fighting for any benefits at all.
That includes Marc Richard, a father of two from Tampa, who calls himself the “phantom applicant.” That’s because he says he’s applied for unemployment four times since earlier March, and while the applications go through on his end, the Department of Economic Opportunity can never find him in the system.
“We can’t pull you up. We put your social security number in, it shows nothing. We put your name in, it shows nothing,” Richard recounted of his countless conversations with DEO call center agents. “They keep saying sorry, you don’t exist, we can’t do anything.”
Richard is one of more than 500 trouble applicants who filled out this 8 On Your Side survey in just the last couple of days. Nearly a fifth of respondants said their benefits suddenly stopped without explanation.
Another 40 percent, including Richard, say they’ve yet to receive a penny from the DEO despite many trying since March.
“Nobody seems to know how to help us,” he lamented.
While Richard fights for benefits, some Florida lawmakers are calling on Congress to extend the $600-a-week program. So far, that doesn’t seem likely to happen.
Despite feeling invisible in the eyes of the DEO, much like his missing unemployment applications, Richard has no job in sight and therefore no choice but to keep trying.
His family has nearly exhausted their savings.
“It’s definitely been a struggle,” he said. “But we can’t give up, because we’re in need.”
If you’re struggling with Florida unemployment, click here for our survey. All answers submitted before 5 p.m. July 17 will then be submitted to the DEO on your behalf to help try to escalate your claim.
Feeling failed by the unemployment system? 8 On Your Side is putting together a list of names of people waiting for their benefits to send to Gov. DeSantis and the DEO.
If you have been waiting for 30 days or more on unemployment benefits, please fill out this Google form. 8 On Your Side’s Victoria Price will be delivering it to the governor.