Melbourne woman loses food stamps, blames DEO for unemployment benefits error

DEO records show she has been waiting 12 weeks for benefits

MELBOURNE, Fla. – Nicole Finn, a single mother with 2 young children, is one of the first known Florida unemployment claimants to have her food stamps cut following a Department of Economic Opportunity mistake that found she was receiving state and federal benefits when in fact, she had never received any benefit payments.

The Melbourne woman said she was furloughed from Land and Sea Inc. on March 24. She filed for benefits and was deemed eligible.

“I haven’t received a dime of money at all,” Finn said. ”Whoever they spoke to over the telephone at the unemployment office (DEO), said ‘yes she is eligible yes she filed.‘”

News 6 reviewed her DEO Connect account and found Finn is eligible for more than $1,900 in state jobless benefits but the funds have not been released.

Finn said she had turned to a daily food line at the Sherwood Elementary School because she has no other options.

“Sometimes we’ll get 4, 5 meals in one day,” she said. “So that will be breakfast, lunch, and dinner for all of us.”

Her 11-month-old son and 7-year-old daughter attended day care before she lost her job but without someone to watch the children she has been unable to find work and said she is basically a hostage to the DEO’s slow process.

“I’ve been calling at least 50-times a day if not more,” she said of the DEO call center. “(I )keep getting that recording, ‘high volumes try again later.‘”

Mark Hamrick, a senior financial analyst with Bankrate.com, said Finn’s plight has become the norm for families in Florida and across the country.

“I think a big part of this is just catching up backlog,” Hamrick said. “We’re facing something we haven’t faced in the country or the state of Florida before, there’s a lot of inefficiency to the effort to get help.”

Finn told News 6 she is three months behind in her rent and if the Governor does not extend the rent moratorium, set to expire on Aug. 1, she may lose her home.

“I don’t know where to turn, I don’t know what to do, she said.

If you would like to help Nicole and her family or you have an unemployment issue email makeendsmeet@wkmg.com

There is a form available to fast track DEO cases. Fill it in and News 6 will send it to the state lawmakers representing your district. Email makeendsmeet@wkmg.com with the following information:

First Name:      

Last Name:      

Date of Birth (using the MM/DD/YYYY format):

Last Four Digits Only of SS#:

Phone Number:    

Email Address:                 

Home Address:      

Claimant ID #:

Are you a W-2 employee, a 1099 employee, or both?

Did you file via CONNECT, RA App, or paper application?

When did you first apply?

Have you received any payments as of yet (State, Federal, or both)?

Please provide a BRIEF description of your current issues and/or questions related to your claim only, including the current status of your claim. 

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