TAMPA, Fla. -- About a dozen people lined the sidewalk along Bayshore Boulevard on Monday afternoon calling for the state to take care of Floridians who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
HAPPENING NOW: unemployment rally on Bayshore Blvd. We hear different stories with the same outcome. They’re fighting to receive benefits after losing their job due to the #coronavirus. @abcactionnews pic.twitter.com/bGAfP6r2eC
— Ryan Smith (@RyanReports) April 27, 2020
The rally comes as Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) processed 400,000 unemployment claims over the weekend, bringing the state total to more than 650,000. Prior to that, many complained of DEO's website being slow in processing those who had just lost their jobs.
Sabrina Harris was laid off from her job with an airline company following the virus' outbreak. She has been living off of money saved for nursing school.
Harris likens the hours spent trying to receive unemployment benefits in Florida to a full-time job.
"I haven’t been sleeping well at night because I wake up in the middle of the night worried about this stuff, you know, worried how I’m going to pay my bills," said Harris.
On Friday, DEO shut down its website for new applicants for about three days to allow the state time to catch up on the unemployment claims.
According to organizers of the rally, Floridians who lost their jobs are demanding emergency relief, saying on its Facebook event page that "Unemployed workers can't continue to wait for the benefits that are rightfully owed to them."
"Hopefully they take care of something in the next few days, I’ll be broke by the end of the week," said Kim Donley.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced many businesses to lay off or furlough their employees. Since April 2, Florida has been under a "safer-at-home" order, shutting down all non-essential businesses in the Sunshine State.
- New DEO leader answers questions after temporarily shutting down unemployment site
- As Florida chips away at 1.7 million unemployment claims, expert fears state may not keep up with appeals
- State unemployment fund $10 million short after thousands of businesses failed to pay up
As of Monday afternoon, DEO's Connect website should be back up and running.