TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Protesters gathered Wednesday outside state offices in three cities, calling for a fix to Florida's unemployment system. It comes after some have tried for months to claim state or federal benefits without luck.
"I think that it's important that people in politics, and in government, know that we're not standing up for the BS," said Tallahassee protester Izzy Mata.
Mata was one of a handful of frustrated protesters that held signs in front of the state capitol. Protesters did the same near high traffic areas of Tampa and Orlando.
Their group called "Fix It Florida" believes the state's Department of Economic Opportunity is taking too long to pay unemployment claims. To date, more than 2.4 million have been submitted after coronavirus protections led to massive layoffs.
"I had to wait, like, over a month," Mata said. "Rent, utilities, food, water. I shouldn't have to scrounge around, ask my family for money and panic."
For Judy Tanzosch, an organizer of the Tallahassee rally, it's been eleven weeks without an unemployment check. Though she's waiting for federal assistance, her claim still needs to be processed through DEO's system.
"My 70-year-old mother is paying all my bills and it's draining her significantly," Tanzosch said. "It's just a mess. Everyone knows what kind of mess it is."
Protesters said they hoped to see the following major changes as soon as possible:
- Longer-lasting state benefits, going from 12 weeks to 26
- Clear deadline for issuing payments
- Special legislative session to make it all happen
For months, the governor and other GOP leaders have resisted calls to bring lawmakers back.
Instead, DeSantis said he has been trying to bolster the department with more staffing, technology upgrades, and new leadership. He touted the improvements during a news conference three weeks ago.
"People couldn't even get on, but we said — you know — we need to put this out there, the agency needed something to build towards," DeSantis said. "That's public. You take pride in getting those numbers down. That's exactly what we did."
The latest data from DEO showed it has processed more than 92 percent of unique claims submitted.