ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Joshua Arroyo is a chef without a job, unemployment benefits or his own place to live and he blames the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for his predicament.
The 30-year-old Ocoee man was furloughed from his job as executive chef at the Wyndham Hotel on March 20 and said he filed for unemployment benefits the same day.
“I’m a working man, I should be working but nobody’s hiring,” the frustrated chef said. “It’s horrible, I should be stable now and I was hoping unemployment could help me out.”
Arroyo said he was hoping to be called back to the Wyndham Resort Hotel this month but instead he received a notice that his furlough would be extended another six months.
“It’s frustrating, It’s depressing,” he said during a Zoom interview. ”I’ve been claiming my weeks, and nothing and my car is about to be repossessed.”
A short stint without work in late 2019 forced him to turn to state unemployment assistance until he quickly found a position with the Wyndham Orlando Resort hotel.
Arroyo said he called the Department of Economic Opportunity to “notify them” that he had found employment and was told to keep the last $256 unemployment payment.
When he filed for jobless benefits with the DEO on March 20 he was listed as eligible but disqualified every week he applied for benefits because of the overpayment.
“I’ve been calling (DEO) every single day,” Arroyo said. “The over payment was paid on May 11 but they’re still saying I haven’t paid it off yet.”
Arroyo produced a bank statement that confirms the payment was issued to the DEO in May.
“If it weren’t for my aunt or family I would be on the streets,” he said.
State Sen. Linda Stewart (Orlando-D) has been making trips to Tallahassee every two weeks to personally deliver unemployment claims to the DEO office for constituents like Arroyo who are still waiting for their unemployment benefits.
“Being without money from March or April is ridiculous,” Stewart said. “We need to unclog that (DEO) drain and make the money flow.”
The DEO staff has been working with News 6 on cases featured in the weekly Make Ends Meet reports.
In Joshua Arroyo’s case, the DEO team was able to issue a payment but an issue prompted a delay on additional checks.
DEO press secretary Paige Landrum writing in part: “In general, if an overpayment is older than 150 days old it may be sent to a collection agency. When payments are made while the overpayment is with a collection agency, there may be a delay in the Department receiving the payments. The claimant will be made whole upon the completion of processing.”
The DEO recommends these sites to help your request for benefits:
If you have an unemployment or IRS tax issue email firstname.lastname@example.org