System error costs jobless Pinellas mom $12,000 in benefits and daughter

Florida Unemployment

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — A Pinellas County mom blames the state’s faulty unemployment system for losing her home and her nine-year-old daughter.

Kristina McGarry says she has $12,000 in benefits on hold due to a system error and cannot get them released. All sorts of system bugs have haunted jobless Floridians since the pandemic unemployment saga began in March.

McGarry had barely gotten back on her feet when the pandemic knocked her right back down again. After losing her health and wellness business in late 2019, she applied for unemployment but didn’t collect.

Instead, she started bartending to support her daughter, COVID-19 cost McGarry that job nearly as soon as she got it. She applied for unemployment once again.

“I got a few checks, business as usual, there was no issue,” McGarry explained. “And then the checks just stopped.”

It appeared she was caught in a well-documented glitch that interrupted thousands of payments. But when others’ benefits resumed, hers did not. McGarry later learned through the Department of Economic Opportunity that a separate glitch reverted the system back to her 2019 claim, disqualifying the rest of her benefits.

Months of hounding the DEO and local lawmakers got her nowhere. So, she turned to 8 On Your Side.

Florida’s faulty unemployment system continues to cut off those who need it.

Tuesday, the CONNECT site crashed over what the agency described as an “isolated” but known issue, related to high volume. Wednesday, 8 On Your Side received screenshots from confused applicants after the system started prompting them for the wrong programs.

With no money, McGarry’s been forced to move into her car and give her daughter back to her ex for the time being.

But she’s not done fighting for her…or for what she’s owed.

“My daughter is my drive, I’ll do anything for her,” McGarry said. “I’ll put my pride to the side, I’ll do anything I have to do to take care of her.”

8 On Your Side has contacted the DEO to see if they can correct McGarry’s claim issue so she can get her benefits and most importantly, get her daughter back.

As of this writing, a DEO spokesperson says team members are still looking into the Wednesday issue with sorting some applicants into the wrong program.

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