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Unemployed Floridians protest over the failure of state to process claims

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Over a dozen protesters came out to Bayshore Boulevard on Monday afternoon fed up with a system that seems to have failed them. Many of them are first time applicants for unemployment benefits, and they want answers from the state.

Out of work and out of patience, these protesters say times are tough enough during a pandemic shutdown even harder when the lifeline they need isn’t there.

“I absolutely cannot work. I can’t put anyone else at risk by being close enough to them to train them as well as as my restaurant has gone to take out only and is operating with a very small staff,” said Kelly Johnson who used to work at a restaurant before the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor data, nearly 7 of every 8 Floridians who filed claims from mid-March to early April were still waiting — the worst rate in the country. The state website to apply for unemployment is still down from over the weekend, and there’s no one to pick up the phone.

“I have called multiple times a day. I have exhausted days upon days where I’m not ‘Working’ just trying to find out what’s going on with my benefits,” said Johnson.

She’s a single mother with five kids at home and wants to get back to work. Those are concerns expressed in a meeting with Democratic lawmakers from Florida. They want Gov. DeSantis to extend benefits from 12 weeks to 26, and application issues fixed with Floridians paid retroactively.

“Unfortunately Florida is the stingiest in the country. That’s never going to cut it. That’s why we’re asking the governor to do the right thing and extend the helping hand Floridians are begging for by extending unemployment benefits,” said Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.)

Unemployed Floridians say they can’t get up to $600 in federal unemployment aid from the C.A.R.E.S. Act until their application is processed through the state.

“I’m embarrassed right now that I am a Floridian. I think of all the people that do lose their job through no fault of their own and how hard it’s probably been for them before me to get their benefits,” said Johnson.

Other lawmakers 8 On Your Side spoke with say if you’re frustrated take those frustrations to your local, state, and national legislators. Let them know they need to be working for you right now.

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