Southwest Floridians struggle to get Reemployment Assistance, face homelessness

Reporter: Sara Girard
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News

Missing unemployment benefits means more hardship for people in Southwest Florida.

Two men, like many others, are pleading for the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) to get their checks.

David Westerman is now homeless for Christmas, a situation he never thought he’d be in.

“I’m stuck on unemployment now because of this, he explained. “If I had just gotten that money, I could have gotten a vehicle, I would have gotten myself picked up and back to work.”

Westerman said he never received the weekly $600 from the CARES Act this summer, “I guess they sent six checks to an address that didn’t exist.”

That’s $3,600 he’s still fighting to get.

“They say, well, we’re going to get a supervisor to send this information off to the right people and if you don’t get the money within two weeks call back.”

Currently, he’s collecting only $125 a week.

After his car broke down, he said he sold almost all of his stuff and still couldn’t make rent, leaving him on the street. “It’s not enough for me to function, really. I guess to function on the street maybe, but not get me back to where I need to be.”

Herman Clifton is also struggling, all because his account was flagged for fraud. “I’ve been fighting with them since the 26th of May and I still haven’t gotten one penny.”

He said if it weren’t for his wife’s job at the post office, they wouldn’t have any of the usual Christmas traditions this year.

“It definitely affected my Christmas, because my wife had to foot the bill by herself.”

Now, all Clifton and Westerman are asking for is what they’re legally owed.

“You know I just need help,” Westerman said, “I just want them to do their job. That’s all I want them to do.”

And for Clifton, “At this point, this is about the worst I’ve been in life.”

Their lives are hanging in the balance because of the broken unemployment system.

We asked the DEO to look into their claims and a representative said she would.

Now, due to office and bank closures for the holidays, Reemployment Assistance Payments may be delayed 2-3 business days. For additional resources click here.

For ongoing updates and information on unemployment, follow WINK News Investigative Reporter Sara Girard on Twitter and Facebook.

She also updates the WINK News FAQ: Unemployment Resources page as information is received.

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.