What happens to federal jobless benefits caught in FL DEO backlog when CARES Act expires in weeks?

Florida Unemployment

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Ruskin woman says she still cannot collect the unemployment benefits she applied for months ago, a story that 8 On Your Side continues to hear over and over.

The state’s unemployment agency admits it’s still cutting through backlog from the deluge of claims created by the pandemic, but is there a point where it’s simply too late?

“They’re preventing a lot of people from surviving,” said Rhonda Crowson, who first applied for unemployment in April after losing her job at a Ruskin Subway.

Jobs were scarce, and Crowson’s COPD made her even more hesitant about being around people during the coronavirus pandemic. Her application was finally processed in June but her benefits remain on hold, and she’s been living on the streets.

“I’ve applied every quarter, I’ve done everything single thing they’ve wanted me to do,” Crowson said. She claims Department of Economic Opportunity employees have previously assured she’d be seeing her money “in a week.”

Crowson reached out to 8 On Your Side for help, one of dozens of applicants we’ve heard from in recent weeks. Many, including Crowson, don’t qualify for traditional state benefits but rather the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance funds created by the CARES Act which are then paid out by the Florida DEO. Some people are also still waiting for weeks that included the $600 weekly federal bonus, known as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.

By law, CARES Act money not distributed by the of the year must be returned to the federal government.

So, what happens to the $14,000 in benefits Crowson says she’s owed, as well as any other backlogged claims, if they’re not fixed in time?

It’s not clear. A spokesperson for the DEO tells 8 On Your Side they’re looking into it.

Meanwhile, Crowson says she’s looking for a miracle.

“I need it,” she said. “I’ve been living on the streets, but there’s certainly other people too. We all just need the help that I think we deserve.”

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