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Self-employed Florida gig workers losing faith federal aid is coming as state works to connect them

'It’s kind of pointless at this point,' says unemployed hairstylist
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Posted at 7:18 PM, Apr 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-23 19:21:56-04

Florida’s self-employed and independent contractors out of work due to COVID-19 continue waiting on the state to connect them with federal unemployment aid.

The group doesn’t qualify for state benefits but can get at least $600 a week through the CARES Act.

Officials with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity are currently developing a system to link unemployed workers with federal dollars. At last check, they say it could be a few more days before the new application system is working.

Hairstylist Arielle Ricotta has already waited weeks for the federal benefits to arrive. She’s now tapping into her life insurance policy to make ends meet, wondering if funds will ever come.

“We’re possibly going back to work in May,” she said. “It’s like, I needed income and help four weeks ago. It’s kind of pointless at this point.”

Arielle Ricotta<div class="Figure-credit" itemprop="author">E.W. Scripps

For now, Florida’s gig and self-employed are being told to use the current CONNECT system. Their claim applications will be rolled over when the new system is running.

It’s still unclear when the federal dollars will arrive. Even with a new application portal for self-employed and gig workers in the works, officials are busy processing an unprecedented number of other unemployment claims.

The latest total is more than 1.7 million filed since mid-March when COVID-19 restrictions began.

Florida Department of Management Services Secretary Jon Satter , who recently took over the state's unemployment benefits system, is promising to cut checks as quickly as possible. The average time before the surge had been three weeks.

In Satter's first seven days, he's provided more transparency to the backlog of claims at DEO and helped cleared some legal logjams slowing down the process.

Critics, however, believe the department isn't doing enough to communicate clearly with the public. State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said even she has struggled to get clear answers from the state.

“We often get more questions back or delayed answers," she said. "We have had to look at nontraditional means to solve some of these problems. It has been a hot mess when it has come to streamlined communication."

Floridians looking for the latest information on unemployment benefits are encouraged to review DEO's digital resource guide .