TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Floridians contend important information is mysteriously disappearing from their unemployment applications, complicating the process and rendering their claims invalid.
However, a Tallahassee judge ruled Thursday against forcing Florida’s unemployment system to quickly fix problems and process payments faster.
Judge John Cooper said he did not have the authority to do so. Further, he said he did not hear evidence that the Department of Economic Opportunity is intentionally trying to not pay unemployment applicants.
The ruling is a blow to hundreds of thousands of out-of-work Floridians still waiting for benefits. More than 400,000 have already been denied.
On Wednesday 8 On Your Side interviewed a former DEO call center staffer who claimed to have witnessed computer glitches reject valid applicants.
Larry Krueger of Westchase has been out of work for more than two months and his savings are quickly disappearing. He can’t get benefits because he says the wages he keeps entering into his online application also keep disappearing.
“Apparently that is the only thing holding up my claim for the past two months,” he said.
When Krueger called the DEO, a call center employee apparently told him he’s not alone.
Some applicants, like Shane Fawn of Largo, have re-entered their wage information at least a dozen times.
“Every time I put my information in, it would zero out my total earnings,” Fawn explained.
Former DEO call center agent Reggie Ellison said deleted wage information was a common glitch he witnessed that would render otherwise qualified applicants ineligible.
It’s unlcear how many of the 413,000 claims rejected so far fall under that category.
“I am one of hundreds of thousands I guarantee is in the same situation,” Larry Krueger said. “And we’re just not getting any answers.”
The agency’s CFO Damon Steffens denied under oath that the system rejects qualified applicants.
Former call center workers like Ellison, however, testified the very opposite.
Audits dating back to 2013 found system defects that could jeopardize claims. At this point, it’s not just claims in jeopardy.
For folks like Larry Krueger and Shane Fawn…it’s entire livelihoods.
“We won’t be able to pay rent, we won’t be able to pay a car payment, and we can’t afford health or car insurance come June 1st,” Krueger said.
While Judge Cooper did not grant a temporary injunction in favor of the embattled unemployment applicants, he also did not dismiss the lawsuit.
The DEO did not return a request for comment regarding the disappearing information.
MORE ON FLORIDA UNEMPLOYMENT
- DEO says 100% of eligible unemployment applicants paid while barriers to benefits persist
- New unemployment seeker numbers growing as old DEO issues remain unsolved
- Extra $600 unemployment pay set to end next month
- Never-ending error: Self-employed Floridians face yet another hurdle to collect unemployment benefits
- Locked out claimants question efficacy of DEO ID verification tool