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New year rolls in new questions and concerns for Florida DEO about unemployment

Posted at 5:58 PM, Jan 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-06 10:39:52-05

TAMPA, Fla. — New problems are emerging in the new year for Floridians still out of work because of the pandemic.

Five days into 2021, “It’s worse than it’s ever been. It’s worse than it’s ever been,” said Vanessa Brito, a community activist who has helped people across the state sort through issues when it comes to their claim.

She says a large number of people have contacted her worried they’re now ineligible for benefits.

CONNECT seems to have changed people who were self-employed or gig workers who exhausted their federal benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program last month to regular state unemployment and marking them ineligible. DEO says those folks will likely have to reapply for state unemployment because it’s a new year. That means, they most likely will have to wait again, to be deemed ineligible again.

"As a reminder, claimants receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits who may be eligible for a regular state claim, must apply for a new claim so the Department can review eligibility for regular reemployment assistance at the start of a new calendar quarter. Additionally, claimants that have exhausted PUA benefits may be prompted to apply for a regular Reemployment Assistance claim to determine eligibility for a new benefit year of regular state Reemployment Assistance. To complete the application, claimants should select the ‘Apply for Reemployment Assistance Benefits’ link and complete a new application. Claimants who have not yet exhausted PUA, and have been determined not eligible for a regular state claim after completing the Quarter Change PUA Questionnaire, should continue to request benefit payment during their scheduled dates." — DEO Representative.

“We don’t know, because DEO won’t give us an answer — will they have to reapply for PUA, or will they be automatically placed back on to PUA?” Brito asked.

But some people say when they click the link to reapply for benefits they can’t because they have a “current claim.”

Some folks are waiting to claim their last week of PUA benefits hoping the federal funds will show up in their accounts and save them from reapplying.

“There’s going to be a gap in benefits and I think people need to expect that,” said Brito, with all of the issues occurring within CONNECT.

The DEO says it’s still working diligently to implement the CARES act extension even though some people say they’re starting to see the extra 11 weeks of benefits reflected in their accounts. There's no word on whether the PUA extension will be retroactive to the day it was signed into law which means some people may get less than 11 weeks.