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Will new leadership usher out persistent problems at Florida DEO?

Florida Unemployment

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Governor Ron DeSantis appointed State Representative Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, as the Department of Economic Opportunity’s new executive director Wednesday.

Eagle is the outgoing house majority leader, as he recently lost the Republican primary to keep his southwest Florida seat.

“Leader Eagle is an experienced legislator, a family man, and the right choice to lead DEO,” said Governor DeSantis in a press release announcing the appointment.

“We enter in precarious times and I look forward to working with my former colleagues to effectuate change and lead DEO into a bright future,” Eagle added, in that same release.

Eagle replaces Ken Lawson who was sidelined by the governor after the state’s unemployment site began crashing in March.

The question on many minds now is if new leadership can fix the months-old problems still plaguing Florida’s unemployment system and those who rely on it?

Curt Crider is a Tampa career bartender who applied for unemployment in March after he was laid off from his job but has yet to collect a dime.

He logged onto his CONNECT profile this week to find that he was once again disqualified from benefits that he claims DEO representatives have assured him he is entitled to.

“A couple of weeks, that’s a technical error. But we’re talking about five to six months,” Crider told 8 On Your Side via Zoom. “It’s beyond ridiculous.”

Crider says the problem appears to stem from an old unemployment claim he filed in 2019. Crider never collected on that claim, he says, because he quickly landed his new job.

However, that 2019 claim continues to be cited when Crider receives disqualification letters from the DEO.

It’s an issue Crider has been working with DEO on since June. He says DEO agents have repeatedly put in requests to void out the old claim and escalate his issues to supervisors, yet it continues to block his benefits.

“They said it would take anywhere from three to five business days, which is asinine,” he said.

It’s highly-criticized systemic failures like what Crider has faced that appears to have eventually forced former DEO director Ken Lawson to resign earlier this week.

Eagle’s appointment was revealed two days later.

“Just fix it,” Crider asked of the agency’s new chief. “Pour out all your resources and fix it.”

In the meantime, 8 On Your Side is trying to help fix it. We requested our DEO contacts to get a supervisor on Crider’s case. The bartender says he was lucky to head back to work recently, but he’s still $13,000 in the hole from the months of battling for benefits.

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