Some unemployed Floridians say they’ve found it difficult to get benefits and aid

FLORIDA — Maryline Avila was laid off from her job as an accountant in a corporate office that manages hotels and restaurants in Florida.

She applied for re-employment assistance through the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity, or DEO, back in March. But up to now, she has not received unemployment benefits.

“We have more than 3,000 employees. More than 2,000 were laid-off, of course because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Avila is just among more than 1.2 million Floridians who filed unemployment claims in April. The sunshine state’s jobless rate continues to look grim — with numbers jumping significantly from 4.4 percent in March to 12.9 percent in April due to the shutdown of establishments amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Orlando, where most recreation parks are located saw its unemployment rate leap from 4.2 percent to 16.2 percent, the highest in the state.

Meanwhile, some laid-off Floridians said they’ve found it challenging to get help from the state’s DEO, even finding it difficult to access the DEO website.

“The website is not working. There’s no phone number to call. If you make a mistake while on their website, there’s no technical support to call for help.”

In the Facebook group, Florida Pinoy, a number of Fil-Ams shared the same sentiment — saying they’ve been needing re-employment assistance and have not received it.

One Filipino said that she applied last April 26 but has not gotten help yet.

Another one said that while she received her unemployment benefits, she needs to log on to the website every two weeks to receive her checks.

Florida Governor Ron de Santis said 97.6 percent of people who are eligible for benefits have been paid since March 15 but that half of the million residents who applied over the past two months have been ruled ineligible to receive aid.

De Santis admitted that the backlog in unemployment assistance is due to errors and glitches in the DEO website and they’re working on improvements.

Meanwhile, Florida employers can also apply for several types of loans such as the paycheck protection program and the small business loan program.

But for a newly opened store like safety harbor gifts and jewelry in Clearwater, Florida, applying for a business loan is a struggle.

“We applied to them. We have to be open up for a year for some of those loans. We just opened. We’re new in business. I have applied but we haven’t got anything back,” said Kenny Laub.

With many small business struggling to stay float amid the pandemic, white house economic adviser Kevin Hassett predicted that the unemployment rate across the U.S. may surpass 20 percent in May and said it will be even worse in June.

He added that the unemployment rate is expected to drop after June as the pandemic situation eases.

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