ORLANDO, Fla. – State Sen. Linda Stewart (D) District 13, continued her version of shuttle diplomacy from Orlando to Tallahassee Thursday as she delivered a second collection of unemployment claims from constituents stuck in the Department of Economic Opportunity’s never ending log jam.
“We’re going to continue to have this problem day after day, week after week,” the veteran lawmaker said before her latest drive to the capitol. ”I have to make them aware of what the people on the street are facing.”
Rebecca Duke, a furloughed retail worker in Melbourne, has been waiting for unemployment benefits since April 24.
Although she is not in Stewart’s district, the senator has agreed to bring her file to the DEO’s top brass for a closer look.
“I feel like I have been lost in the system after my identity was verified,” she told News 6. “It’s stressful because I’m not getting anywhere.”
Just a few hours after her Zoom interview with News 6, Duke received another email from the Department of Economic Opportunity indicating it needed to verify her identification “due to suspected fraud.”
She said it “doesn’t make sense” because a DEO staffer told her it had been verified two weeks ago.
“I can tell you I’m very frustrated because it doesn’t matter who I talk to,” she said. " Nobody can get an explanation, nobody can release the payments.”
Stewart and her staff have been successful with roughly 300 cases but she admits there are many more across the state still waiting for financial relief.
“We have to have a different way of talking with the constituents,” Stewart said. “This is not going to go away, like COVID-19 it’s not leaving.”
Stewart along with State Sen David Simmons, State Sen. Victor Torres and State Rep. Anna Eskamani have worked with News 6 to open channels with the DEO to review dozens of cases that have been delayed for 10 weeks or more.
“There’s very few people (in the DEO) who have the ability to make those changes,” a frustrated Stewart said. “That’s causing the delay.”
Stewart estimated she would present 100 jobless claims to the DEO this week.
If you have an unemployment benefits issue fill out the form below and email it to email@example.com
We will get it to the DEO through your state representatives’ office.
First and last name:
Date of birth:
Last four of their Social Security Number:
Are you a W-2 or 1099 employee:
Did you file via CONNECT, RA App, or paper application?
Have you received any money, if yes, have you received both state and federal?
BRIEF description of your current issues and/or questions: For example: PIN reset, identity verification, locked out of account, cannot claim their weeks, etc.