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Floridians continue to wait for unemployment benefits as U.S. jobless rate reaches 14.7%

Posted at 5:39 PM, May 08, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A record 20.5 million jobs were lost during the month of April, pushing the unemployment rate to 14.7 percent on Friday.

That unemployment rate tops even that of the post-World War II era, while still below the nearly 25 percent unemployment rate during the Great Depression.

The stunning figures shatter all-time job loss records. According to The Washington Post, the previous one-month increase in job losses was about 2.2 million — which came in the months after World War II.

But economists say there is a silver lining to all of this.

While the unemployment rate is high, these numbers were not unexpected. In fact, economists predicted, just weeks ago, that rates would top 16 percent.

Now, moving forward, analysts say they’ll be watching for signs of improvement and a rebound, as safer-at-home orders are loosened and lifted.

In Florida, the DEO continues to plow through hundreds of thousands of unemployment claims.

They are now reporting the number of claimants paid through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance fund.

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These are people who do not qualify for state unemployment, like those who are self employed, independent contractors, or gig workers.

The DEO reports that nearly 10,000 of those people have been paid, with around 40,000 of those claims processed so far.

Still, many are stuck in a waiting period.

Richard Whitman, a self-employed man in Key West said he applied for unemployment eight weeks ago in hopes of getting federal aid. Weeks later, the DEO announced that anyone who applied before April 5 would need to reapply, then get denied again by the state, in order to get a link to apply for federal aid.

“It’s not understandable, definitely not acceptable, that we had to apply a second time. There’s ways that people can code and write into a program that could have given us our PUA link,” said Whitman.

Governor DeSantis announced in a press conference today that the federal government didn’t send that P.U.A. money to the State of Florida until recently, and that the DEO is now working to distribute it.

However, DMS Secretary Jonathan Satter, the person appointed by Governor DeSantis to run the state’s unemployment benefits, confirmed to ABC Action News two weeks ago, that P.U.A. funds would be paid by the state, and then reimbursed by the federal government.

“I believe, and I'm not sure, but I believe that is something where we front end the payment, and then on a daily basis the federal government will reimburse us,” said Satter.

In regards to total unemployment claims submitted in Florida, the DEO reports having processed more than 1.2 million individual unemployment claims as of today.

Of those people, only about a quarter of them have received payments, and often times, once they do get them, the funds are a little underwhelming.

Rose Curry, a Tampa woman who was furloughed from her dental office more than seven weeks ago, spent a good portion of her furlough fighting the unemployment system.

“There’s no way to get back the time. I probably spent more time doing what I was doing to get on there than I do at my full-time job, than I do as a mom during that period,” said Curry.

Until Friday, Rose had received a mere $1,400, paid to her by the state and federal governments for her entire furlough period. But this morning, she woke up to some better news.

“I finally got my retro for the unemployment. So it was three payments that they still had owed me,” said Curry.

But as the story goes for Rose and thousands of others, her full amount of retroactive pay hasn’t arrived.

Still, she’s breathing a sigh of relief knowing she’s back to work, and no longer having to worry about calling the DEO to find out when the next paycheck might hit.

“It was just like a pit in your stomach. You just know you’re gonna get the same response every time, but you still hit redial, you still try again, cause you’re still in that desperation like, I need to talk to somebody,” said Rose

The help she did receive came from three state legislators.

Florida state representatives and senators have said that their offices are working around the clock to help people get answers. If you send them an email with your claim information, they will contact the DEO, and the DEO seems to be more responsive to them.

“I hope everybody gets to feel the way I feel, to just have that sense of relief,” said Curry.

We’re still waiting to hear whether the DEO plans to extend the work search requirement waiver, which is set to expire Saturday, May 9.