As Florida chips away at 1.7 million unemployment claims, expert fears state may not keep up with appeals

Posted at 6:45 PM, Apr 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-23 20:27:38-04

TAMPA, Fla. -- As the state chips away at the more than 1.7 million unemployment applications (and counting) that have flooded in since mid-March, people like Michael Lorusso have reached their breaking point.

“It’s like having a 2004 minivan and you want it to go 120 mph. It don’t work that way,” he said, of the system and the way it’s worked. “We don’t wanna hear any more excuses. We don’t want to hear it! We have no more patience, we have nothing more to give.”

To get benefits through the state, you must have been let go through no fault of your own and be willing and ready to work.

So far, only 210,000 claims have been processed about 58,000 of which have been denied. You have the right to appeal the decision but even that, the state office appears slammed with calls and requests.

When ABC Action News called, we were greeted with, “You have reached the Reemployment Assistance Appeal Commission. We are currently experiencing a very high call volume and we appreciate your patience.”

“People don’t have time and patience anymore, they’ve been lied to. Plain and simple,” Lorusso said. “We don’t have time and patience. We want our money now.”

If you must appeal, first, fill out an appeal form within 20 days of your denial. The Appeals Commission will schedule a hearing over the phone, and similar to being in a courtroom, you’ll have the right to ask questions, the employer will too, and then both you and your former employer will present closing arguments. After that the state will make a determination.

A labor and employment expert that spoke with ABC Action News says the process can be tedious and say some people give up.

“They can’t process 1.7 million people, how are they going to process people that have filed for an appeal?” asked Lorusso.

Click here to access the form.

As for those who are self-employed or are part of an independent contractor, they may not qualify for state benefits but can get at least $600 a week through the CARES Act.

Officials with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity are developing a system to link unemployed workers with federal dollars. At last check, they say it could be a few more days before the new application system is working, ABC Action News' Forrest Saunders reports.

Floridians looking for the latest information on unemployment benefits are encouraged to review DEO's digital resource guide.