TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Many out-of-work Floridians woke up Tuesday or Wednesday to a $300 deposit, three weeks worth of recently-approved Lost Wages Assistance.
LWA is federally funded by FEMA through an executive order granted by President Trump in early August. That came after a $600 weekly boost to state benefits allocated in the CARES Act expired at the end of July.
At this point, Florida has only been approved for three weeks of LWA, but it can apply by the week until the funding runs out. Estimates show there’s enough funding to likely last states a couple more weeks.
While this marks the second round of federal aid for most, some in Florida are still fighting for a first round as their benefits remain caught up in the Department of Economic Opportunity’s systemic failure from earlier this year.
That includes Shelly Corriveau of Spring Hill, who says the DEO told her last week it could be another four to six weeks before her claim issues are resolved. She first applied for unemployment in March.
The pandemic didn’t just furlough Corriveau from her 17 year run as a transcriptionist, it also derailed what would have been her new side project: selling beach-themed art at local fairs and events that have all, so far, been canceled.
“March 1, became an LLC, and then COVID,” Colliveau explained.
The obstacles kept coming, Corriveau says, when she filed for unemployment. At first, the CONNECT website would never upload her documents and she couldn’t get DEO staffers on the phone to help.
She was able to eventually submit information for wage and benefit determination via fax but has continued to suffer subsequent delays. As thousands of Floridians receive $900 in LWA, Corriveau still has $10,000 in benefits stuck on hold, she says.
Wednesday, Florida’s largest labor union called on lawmakers to expand unemployment benefits despite reluctance from some who argue jobs have returned.
“The unemployment insurance crisis has not been solved, not by any means,” said Dr. Rich Templin with Florida AFL-CIO during an online press conference.
National pandemic unemployment dropped to its lowest point in August but some states and industries still have a long way to go.
8 On Your Side obtained data from employment search engine Indeed.com that shows Florida job postings are down more than 17 percent compared to this time last year. May saw the peak posting slash, with roughly half as many jobs listed compared to May 2019.
Even Corriveau says she’s facing stiff competition in a field where she can easily work from home.
“I’ve applied to multiple transcription positions and some newer technology scribe work,” she said. “But if noboby gets back to you, what are you doing to do?”
The Senate will vote Thursday on a coronavirus relief bill that would extend the $300 a week federal bonus through the rest of the year.
8 On Your Side reached out to the DEO on Shelly Corriveau’s behalf to see what, if anything, can be done to expedite her benefits.
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