North Port business says state failed to notify them to take action on unemployment claims

Florida Unemployment

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — 8 On Your Side continues fighting to help unemployed Floridians.

Governor Ron DeSantis has said that many people filled out the unemployment application incorrectly, holding their claim and potential benefits hostage.

However, 8 On Your Side has uncovered another potential reason why some of those claims may not be getting through the system to help people in need.

Annie Hicks, co-owner of Seeport Optometry in North Port, reached out to 8 On Your Side to inform us she was never notified about her employees’ unemployment claims.

As part of Florida’s unemployment application process, employers must verify some employee information like wages and reason for losing their job.

In previous years, Hicks says she would receive a letter in the mail when an employee filed a claim against her company’s account.

That letter instructs the employer on how to log onto CONNECT and review the employee’s claim.

However, that was not the case recently when she had to lay off some of her staff due to the pandemic. Hicks said she was never notified.

Despite no notification, Hicks had dealt with the process before and wanted to be proactive for her employees so she went to log onto CONNECT anyway.

She said it took a month to access the system. Once she finally did, only one of her employees’ claims was available to review and submit.

Hicks called around to other local businesses who told her they did not receive notifications from the state regarding claims against their companies either.

She doesn’t know how many businesses faced the same predicaments she did, but fears it is what has been holding some claims hostage.

“If a business has never had an unemployment claim against their account, they wouldn’t even know where to find their RT [reemployment tax] number,” she explained. “They wouldn’t know they even needed to respond.”

Online DEO guidance shows if employers fail to reaply to a claim by a certain deadline, an adjudicator will make a determination based on the information available. That can take anywhere from two to six weeks.

As of May 15, nearly a quarter of a million applications sat in the DEO employer/wage queue. Two days later, that number dropped substantially to a mere 7,400.

It’s unclear what cut through that backlog so quickly.

Annie Hicks continues to check her CONNECT page every day, hoping to finally see some progress for her staff she’s so closely keeping an eye on.

“I would do absolutely anything for my employees,” she said.

8 On Your Side asked the DEO why employers would not be notified about claims made against their account.

We also asked what would lead to some employees’ claims not showing up on the employer’s CONNECT acount.

We are still waiting to hear back.

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