ORLANDO, Fla. – As jobless Floridians continue to flood the state’s website trying to apply for unemployment benefits amid the spread of the coronavirus, the agency distributing the funds has not disclosed when eligible claimants should expect to receive their first weekly payment.
“It’s very frustrating. The system is broken. They need to fix it,” said Lynne Reback, a laid-off bartender who worked at the Orlando International Airport.
Reback, an active member of the labor union Unite Here, said she started applying for unemployment benefits on March 15, a process that took three days due to problems using the state’s overloaded website.
One month later, Reback still does not know when her first payment will arrive.
"I haven't received a check. I still don't have any income from unemployment at all," she said.
Governor Ron DeSantis said unemployment benefits payments usually take three weeks, but News 6 has heard from many applicants who have been waiting much longer.
"I told (Florida Department of Economic Opportunity director Ken Lawson) we've got to get better with that because folks are going to be looking for support."
DeSantis said the state has begun distributing federal unemployment money approved by Congress under the CARES Act.
The $600 weekly federal payment is separate from the $275 maximum weekly state unemployment benefit.
Some Floridians who are not eligible for state assistance, such as independent contractors and gig workers, may be entitled to the federal money.
DEO has indicated that Floridians only need to file a single application to apply for state and federal assistance.
Although some claimants have who applied for help in the wake of COVID-19 have started to receive unemployment money, the state has not disclosed how many payments it has issued in recent weeks.
“I just talked to one person on Friday who finally got a check,” said Reback. “They filed their unemployment about a week after I did. They are the only person out of over 100 people I’ve been in communication with that actually received a check.”