ST PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida’s unemployment system continues to fail those who need it.
Of the 1.7 million claims submitted to the state so far, a mere 11 percent have been processed. According to the Department of Economic Opportunity dashboard, only 108,216 people had received unemployment benefits as of April 21.
At Salon Volo in St. Pete, all 15 employees have been out of work since March 21. All filed for unemployment the very next day, according to assistant manager Ira Leighton, but not a single one has seen their claim approved or received any money.
“It’s frustrating,” Leighton told 8 On Your Side.
After four weeks worth of calls and emails to DEO, his local representatives, and even Governor Ron DeSantis, Leighton still can’t get an answer as to why his claim is still pending. His employer has been in business 30 years and has paid into unemployment insurance.
And because Florida has not processed their unemployment claims, the Salon Volo employees cannot collect an additional $600 in unemployment benefits from the federal government.
8 On Your Side called the Department of Economic Opportunity Wednesday to try and check on Leighton’s claim on his behalf. Multiple calls merely went to voicemail. According to the recording, the mailbox was full and therefore we couldn’t leave a voicemail.
In a follow up email, a DEO spokesperson apologized but still was not able to shed any light on the delay.
So our next call was to State Senator Janet Cruz, (D-Tampa), who has been highly critical of the state’s unemployment failure. Two weeks ago, Cruz even asked for DEO director Ken Lawson to resign over the debacle. (He did not, but was reassigned.)
Turns out, even her office is struggling to get results for those stuck in unemployment limbo. Cruz says they’ve been from morning to night for constituents whose bank accounts are running dry.
“We are hounding,” she said. “We’re calling every day asking the status of the folks on our list.”
Cruz’s advice? Be persistent…and for those trying to see results, call DEO every day. If you haven’t already, she also encourages you to reach out to your local representative. Those in Cruz’s district can reach her at 813-467-6830.
8 On Your Side is committed to getting results as well. You can contact Victoria Price at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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