As of Sunday more than 40% of all processed applicants in the state were denied unemployment. Here’s what they can do.
Thousands of jobless Floridians were in for a shock Monday morning when they logged on to the state’s unemployment website to check the status of their application for unemployment benefits. After the famously glitch-ridden site that processes the applications was down for three days, they discovered that it had marked more than 263,164 Floridians as “ineligible” for the benefits.
In fact, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), more than 40% of all processed applicants were told they were ineligible for unemployment. The state offered no explanation other than an email issued by the DEO that read: “If you are not eligible, the written determination will explain the reason we denied your claim and will explain your appeal rights. If you disagree with a determination that denies benefits, you may request an appeal hearing. You have the option to request an appeal with our team within 20 calendar days after the distributed date of the determination.” In the email the DEO also cited a list of examples as to why eligibility may be denied, such as lack of wage history, among others.
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Workers can appeal the decision by filling out a Notice of Appeals Form that can be found in the “Appeals View” drop-down on the website’s navigation menu. But some have found that when they log on to the website to gather the information needed to request the appeal, the determination comes up as “not available.”
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday at a news conference in Tampa “If you had a job and lost it, obviously you’re eligible,” though he noted there may be a difference for those who became unemployed before the coronavirus crisis hit the state.
Still, despite the governor’s reassurance, this unresolved — and still unexplained — situation has added stress on top of stress to families that are already sick with worry about paying their bills and putting food on the table.
Many Applying for PUA
In its official email, the DEO went on to add that many of the individuals deemed ineligible could be eligible for federal benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program [PUA], including gig workers and contractors who are not eligible for state benefits but qualify for the federal $600 per week payout. According to the department, workers will be able to apply for the PUA program through CONNECT, the website that processes the applications this week.
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But this is small consolation for those who are struggling through the stress of the pandemic and joblessness.
“With an elderly father to care for and no job, I was counting on my benefits,” said Patty C., a waitress in Miami-Dade who has been out of a job for two months and is fast going through her savings. “I will now be applying for PUA. I can’t believe I may have to start this process all over again.”