Bills are piling up and tensions are running high in Southwest Florida due to unemployment. For many community members, the unemployment process is failing. We continue to listen to those who reach out to us and press the state for answers.
We have heard from hundreds of Southwest Florida community members the unemployment website isn’t working. And when you finally get through to someone over the phone, they can’t help you.
Everyone is trying to solve different problems but sharing the same frustrations.
Karen McInerney says she went on unemployment back in December, and her benefits ran out in March. But she had started a job with the City of Cape Coral at Sun Splash Family Waterpark.
“I did only work for two days, it was a Saturday and Sunday,” McInerney said. “And then the city closed to the park.”
Even though she lost her new job because of the pandemic, she says the system won’t let her apply again now.
“The website is very user unfriendly,” McInerney said. “There’s no one-size-fits-all way you can check off what your situation is.”
McInerney says she should at least get the chance to apply for federal benefits.
“Under the CARES Act, if you had a job and you lost your job due to the pandemic, you are entitled to $600 a week,” McInerey said. “And that’s what I’m looking for.”
Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he’s switching up the leadership at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Now, the governor is putting Jonathan Satter, the Department of Management Services Secretary, in charge of the unemployment response.
“I want this to be done quickly, and I want to know, like every morning, I should have … how many claims have been paid,” DeSantis said. “Right now, it’s hard for me to even get those numbers, and that’s unacceptable.”
DeSantis hopes this will get things moving.
“Really, I think what people want more than anything is to actually see the money being turned around,” DeSantis said.
And the governor is right, McInerney and everyone who have reached out to WINK News say they just need some relief and now.
“It’s still not working,” McInerey said. “It’s a disaster, and the people deserve better.”
We asked DEO representatives about this specific situation Thursday. And they said, even if a person exhausted their benefits, the pandemic emergency unemployment compensation is available. They did not let us know how someone such as McInerey could apply for that.
Thursday, DeSantis signed an executive order to suspend the need to log onto the unemployment website every two weeks to confirm your job status. He hopes it will reduce the number of people who are using the website. Therefore, it might keep the website from crashing. He says this is only a short-term fix.
Thursday afternoon, Florida Senate President Bill Galvano sent out a memo to all state senators, explaining the unemployment rate forecast and timeline for reemployment assistance.
As we get answers to your questions from FDEO, we’re posting them on our FAQ: Unemployment Resources page.