TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The State of Florida has paid out more than $2.6 billion in unemployment benefits, signaling some success in a system highly criticized as a failure.
With just shy of a million recipients so far, that boils down to an average payout of $2,700 per claimant, or roughly three weeks of full state and federal benefits.
Some of the applicants highlighted by 8 On Your Side recently say they are beginning to receive payments after they were stuck for more than a month with an inexplicably locked, pending or ineligible claim.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has said multiple times that applicants who submitted more than a month ago have all been paid if there wasn’t an issue holding up their claim.
Norm Cole knew exactly what his issue was: He had been locked out of his claim for more than 40 days. The problem is he didn’t know why, or how, to fix it.
When calling the DEO got him nowhere, he called 8 On Your Side.
“I just need one person on the phone who actually has access to the system,” he told us last week.
The very next morning, Cole said he got a call from the DEO that his claim was suddenly unlocked. They did not offer an explanation as to what happened, or how the situation was resolved.
Within days, full state benefits and partial federal funds were deposited into his account.
We asked Cole what he thinks that says about the system.
“It tells me the system is broken,” he said.
If there was a problem with Fay Helminski’s claim, she says the state never let her know what it was either.
Helminski applied April 1, only to get rejected without reason and then told to file again.
After her story aired, she suddenly qualified and received a week’s worth of benefits.
“I’m not sure if I should go back and fight to get it backdated to April 1 or just leave it,” she said.
There is clearly improvement within Florida’s hobbled unemployment system, but with nearly 200,000 applicants still waiting to be processed as of May 19, there’s still much work to be done.
Both Cole and Helminski credit 8 On Your Side with helping them resolve their claim issues and finally receive payments.
“I get on News Channel 8, and the next morning I get a phone call that I can finally move forward,” Cole said.
“My husband’s like ‘Well, maybe because you went on TV they were like we need to get her thing done!'” Helminski added.
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.
LATEST ON FLORIDA’S UNEMPLOYMENT PROBLEMS:
- Florida lawmakers call for more transparency after email mistake compromises unemployment user data
- Florida unemployment rate triples in April to nearly 13 percent
- DEO admits to email blunder that led to data breach
- Unemployment seekers with delayed claims start to see progress after 8OYS sends list with thousands of names
- Florida, Georgia see largest increases in jobless claims due to coronavirus