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Frustrations grow for Floridians waiting on unemployment claims

Posted at 12:02 AM, May 16, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. -- While money is showing up for some unemployment applicants, frustrations are mounting for thousands of other stuck in a waiting game.

"I don’t know what to do it’s one of those things where I’m running out of money," said Carolyn Hustedde.

Hustedde said she's been out of her job as a bartender since March, when she turned to the state's unemployment system for help.

"I check it several times a day," she said.

Her file date shows up as March 24, but she said her application's been pending since then. She said she's gotten to speak to someone on the phone once, who could only tell her her status. Meanwhile, she said still hasn't seen a penny in unemployment aid, while her bills are deferred.

"I was very frustrated today when Governor DeSantis said if you have applied in March you have most likely been paid," Hustedde said.

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Governor Ron DeSantis was asked about people waiting, in some cases since March, during a news conference Friday.

"Who's waiting?" he questioned a reporter, before asking for names and adding, "I can tell you that DEO goes through this and 9 times out of 10 the applications incomplete and I think if you’ve applied in that time period and your application complete and you qualify, I think 99.99 percent of those folks have been paid."

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has previously stated, "We highly encourage individuals who are submitting a Reemployment Assistance application to double check that the form is filled out completely and accurately before submitting. The biggest error we see are applications that are not complete, which can cause delays in the application being processed."

According to the DEO's dashboard, as of Thursday, there were more than 1.3 million claimants, with just over 740,000 paid.

"It’s just ridiculous to claim that 99 percent of the people have been paid because they haven’t," said State Sen. Janet Cruz.

Cruz said her office is spending hours upon hours working with constituents.

"Applicants have had their wages cleared out of their applications mysteriously. DEO has not been able to explained how that has happened," she said. "We’re really faulting the applicants when state leadership has openly called this website a jalopy which it absolutely is."

Cruz also added she believes it's unfair for someone to have to claim their weeks in a system "that's impossible to access."

"We’re asking the governor to alleviate that issue for most Floridians and bypass that and just let them move forward without claiming a week," she said.

While the governor waived the work search requirement, claimants still must claim their weeks every two weeks. The DEO says applicants have seven days to claim their weeks from the date they are assigned, which are Monday-Thursday. The websites is inaccessible over the weekend to people who have already applied while the agency works to process claims.

Other lawmakers also expressed their frustration with the governor's comments.

Rep. Anna Eskamani tweeted, "@GovRonDeSantis wants lists of people who are unemployed and waiting for their benefits so we sent him our list of THOUSANDS of Floridians who are still waiting to be made whole w/their benefits."

Rep. Carlos Smith adding on Twitter, "Since @GovRonDeSantis wants names of people who filed for unemployment in March and HAVE NOT BEEN PAID, please email him and Sec. Satter your name, claimant number, last four SSN, DOB and phone number. governorron.desantis@eog.myflorida.com jonathan.satter@dms.myflorida.com"

"I could pull up person after person after person after person who are eligible who have not been paid a dime. Or who are eligible who have been paid one check maybe just one state check no federal checks. Maybe one federal check no other payments," said attorney Scott Behren.

He's one of several lawyers working on lawsuits filed against the state over the unemployment system.

"It just seemed like every corner I turned, it would never get resolved," said one of his clients, Nicole Geri.

Geri said was out of work as a server in the Sarasota area. She said she filed in early April, after being kicked out of the site, and was finally moved to "eligible" on Friday.

"I’m hoping that one day it will just show up but I have no idea. It just seems like they’re trying to tire people out. It’s like a broken system designed to fail," she said.

Meanwhile, Hustedde said she's double, triple and even quadruple checked her information.