Thousands demand more action from Governor on unemployment

Officials say another 7,500 laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week....
Officials say another 7,500 laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week. (Source: MGN)(KMVT)
Published: May. 14, 2020 at 5:51 PM CDT
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Florida has paid less than half of the 1.4 million residents who have applied for unemployment and complaints from those trying to navigate the state’s system continue to roll in.

The Governor was delivered a petition signed by more than 11,000 seeking additional executive action.

Despite applying for unemployment in March and spending countless hours attempting to get her claim through, Elizabeth Shtuka doesn’t know why she hasn’t seen a penny in benefits.

“We called 108 times yesterday to get disconnected,” said Elizabeth’s mother Shelly, who has been trying to help her daughter navigate the system.

It’s the same story for Stephanie Jones who drove an hour and a half from Franklin County to the Department of Economic Opportunity headquarters in the state capital seeking answers.

“No one was available to come and speak with me about it,” said Jones, who was turned away at the door and not allowed in the building.

For Jones and others waiting for checks, things are getting desperate.

“The not knowing is killing you ‘cause you don’t know how to budget or prepare. I’ve exhausted all of my savings,” said Jones.

More than 11,000 frustrated Floridians signed a petition demanding the Governor increase maximum weekly payouts and extend eligibility from 12 to 26 weeks.

They also want him to waive barriers for eligibility so more can qualify.

“We now have $4 billion sitting in that fund, the problem is it can’t get out the door,” said Dr. Rich Templin with the Florida AFL-CIO.

A handful of Democratic state lawmakers have spent last few weeks in the state capital, bringing their constituents’ stories directly to DEO, in hopes of getting them paid.

Senator Randolph Bracy is one of those lawmakers.

He told us he recently heard from a constituent that made him realize the situation is a matter of life and death for some.

“They were at a breaking point and they considered taking their life,” said Bracy.

Legislative leaders oppose a special session on unemployment so it’s up to the Governor to make short term fixes.

But like those we spoke with for this story, our inquiry to the Governor asking if he’s considering additional action went unanswered.

We’ll keep asking.

The Governor did take some executive action Thursday to help those struggling financially.

He extended his executive order banning evictions and foreclosures by an additional 45 days.

It was previously set to expire Saturday.