Florida preschool teacher caught in unemployment red tape

Single mom says nonprofit Christian school never took deductions for unemployment

ORLANDO, Fla. – Nikki Dacosta spent 10 years teaching pre-school at Christ Church in Coral Springs, now when she needs state unemployment relief she has nothing but a denial from the Department of Economic Opportunity.

“I’ve been working since I was 15," she said. “I don’t understand.”

Eight weeks after being furloughed on March 23, the single mother of two -- girls ages 11 and 13 -- never received an unemployment check.

News 6 found that while working at the nonprofit, administrators never paid the payroll deduction for unemployment.

“Regular taxes are taken out but not for unemployment,” Dacosta said. ” I do my taxes every year.”

Dacosta sent News 6 a pay-stub and recent W-2 form to prove her case.

“I’m not one of those people that don’t want to work," she said. “I love working, it’s just sad that they’re really not helping the ones that really work.”

The Department of Economic Opportunity sent a response to her that showed she had never paid into the system, which she strongly denies.

“On April 27, the DEO said I was ineligible," she said. “No explanation, I’ve tried to call, I don’t know where else to go.”

Dacosta said she’s worked for several companies including Winn Dixie and always had a deduction for unemployment.

"I have those days where I feel like I’m going to get depressed,” a tearful Dacosta said. “But once I see my daughters, I can’t. There’s no time, no room for that.”

She has been forced to wait in food lines, apply for food stamps and move in with her elderly mother because once her federal stimulus check was used, there was nothing left.

Dacosta said she is afraid to work outside right now because she does not want to put her mother at risk.

"I can only do so much,” she said. “She’s an older age and high risk, it’s so hard in every kind of way.”

Dacosta said she still has no indication of when she will get her job back because many students are staying home.

Mark Hamrick, Bankrate.com’s senior economic analyst, said a new survey out this week shows a reluctance from many to test the new normal.

“Most Americans are not comfortable heading back to local non-essential businesses right away. A majority believes businesses are opening too soon. More than two out of five Americans indicate they plan to shop in public less than they did before, which mirrors the number reporting their ability to spend has been negatively affected by the COVID-19 outbreak."

If you would like to help Dacosta and her family, or if you have an unemployment issue email: MakeEndsMeet@wkmg.com

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