Those unemployed feel left behind by DeSantis’ special legislative session

Reporter: Andryanna Sheppard
Published: Updated:
Those facing unemployment were hoping for a special session to help fix the system’s glitches, but instead Gov. Ron DeSantis focused on providing a pathway to unemployment benefits for those who have lost their jobs due to their vaccination status. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Four new laws are now in the books in Florida after legislators met during the special session to address vaccines mandates.

One of the laws includes a provision to allow employees let go for being unvaccinated to collect unemployment benefits.

But, unemployment activists say they want consistency from the state.

They hoped for a special session at the beginning of the pandemic to address the needs and the broken unemployment website.

Now, they say last week’s session was a waste of time.

Kathryn Brady is a Connect survivor. But surviving hasn’t been easy.

Her unemployment account got hacked during one of the state’s breaches and she couldn’t receive her payments.

“The main thing for me was like my security had been breached, you know, like, who actually has the information? And who, now what can they do with it,” Brady said.

Community activist Vanessa Brito has dedicated nearly two years helping people navigate Connect.

She said the special session left those having a hard time collecting benefits feeling left behind.

“I think it’s a slap in the face for the claimants that at least I’ve been working with for almost two years, who have been calling DEO every day, who have been complaining to the governor’s office, you know, so you call a special session for this pocket of people. But what about everybody else,” Brito said.

DeSantis’ office said the goal of the special session was to protect Florida’s jobs and employers are already changing their vaccine policies to comply.

Laura Wagner is the executive director of Opportunity for All Floridians, an organization focused on social advocacy through economic policy. She wonders if that part pf the law was necessary.

“The time and energy should have been spent to fix the system and make it work for people but the system’s broken on several different levels, that it’s broken physically, from the website, the glitches,” Wagner said.

Although Brady is working again, she is still trying to fix her Connect issues.

“How do we get the information that we need? Especially like, what my taxes for 2021 or 22? Like, how do I get the information corrected? Before I have to file,” Brady said.

The people WINK News spoke with said the Florida unemployment system needs to be reformed so claiming benefits isn’t such a hassle.

They hope the legislature considers bills during the regular session next year.

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