ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — One month later and nothing.
The system Florida paid $77 million to design, and another $110 million to fix, still can’t deliver unemployment benefits to those who spent years paying into the program.
On March 19, Isabel Geary showed up for work at the Orlando International Airport Chili’s.
By the end of her shift, she was out of a job.
“Around 2, one of my supervisors started pulling the gates down to close the restaurant, and they pulled us in one by one and said, ‘You are laid off.’”
On March 22, Geary applied for unemployment. She still hasn’t received any money, and she’s hardly alone.
“My dad got laid off a couple of days before my sister’s hours were cut,” Geary said. “She applied, and now three out of the four people in my house are waiting for unemployment now.”
No responses, no answers, no money – the continued problems with Florida’s unemployment website are only growing.
State Rep. Anna Eskamani has been fielding calls for weeks, working to help people navigate the system.
Nine Investigates has been inContact with more than 40 unemployed central Florida workers, none have received payment for the benefits they paid into.
“Of the 500 we are working with, we’ve only heard one or two have received benefits,” Eskamani said. “Our office has very much evolved to become a customer-service resource for unemployment insurance.”
Meanwhile, the problems facing the state are about to get worse.
Florida has yet to announce how it will deliver the extra $600 approved by Congress last month for people who are out of work.
It’s not immediately known if claims that have been processing for weeks will be back-paid, or what it will do about self-employed workers now out of work.
"We've been in constant communication with the governor's office, pushing them on this issue,” Eskamani said. “We know the problems, but we've been given no timeline for when they will be solved."
The Department of Economic Opportunity, which runs unemployment, has provided little in the way of answers to anyone.
9 Investigates has been asking about back pay and the federal money since the beginning of April.
The agency responding with a list of FAQs, but has not answered what workers, like Geary, can expect, or when they’ll get unemployment.
“It’s scary. It produces a lot of anxiety,” she said.
Unemployment spike coming to Central Florida
On April 19, 43,000 employees from Walt Disney World will be eligible to apply for unemployment, adding thousands to those who will try to file their claims on an already overloaded system.
See the video below:
Workers from Disney and other hospitality jobs around Central Florida displayed signs Monday night asking the state to fix the unemployment system.
On Tuesday, Rep. Matt Gaetz tweeted that DeSantis has a plan for those workers for automatic enrollment and the state is working with Disney to get it done.
However, DeSantis said on Tuesday “they wouldn’t get any special place in line." On Monday, DeSantis said the state’s unemployment system was up to speed.
9 Investigates contacted more than 40 workers in the Central Florida area. None have received benefits.
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