ORLANDO, Fla. – Jack Stroming could be the face of a state unemployment benefits tale that has been repeated dozens of times since job layoffs began back in early March.
Stroming was furloughed in March when the demand for conventions and trade shows evaporated and the pandemic first began.
“I’ve done this for 31 years,” the frustrated live events manager said from his South Florida home. “I’m 60, where the hell do I go from here?”
Stroming is in the live events business specializing in staging for conventions and major events from Orlando to Las Vegas.
The multi-billion-dollar industry has gone the way of the travel and hotel industries all impacted by COVID-19′s social distancing mandate.
After eight weeks of checks paid through the federal paycheck protection program, Stroming was forced to tap every resource he had to make ends meet.
“I’ve emptied my savings, my small 401-K,” Stroming said. “No one ever saw this coming ever.”
The Department of Employment Opportunity’s latest claims workflow report shows 97.1% of eligible and processed claims have been paid, leaving just under 3% waiting for checks.
Stroming was receiving unemployment checks in March but when his employer was able to secure PPP benefits he reported the payments and stopped the unemployment checks.
On June 6 the PPP benefits ran out but his application for unemployment benefits was caught in a DEO delay.
News 6 confirmed his DEO account is listed as eligible and active but the funds have not been released.
DEO Director Dane Eagle said the delays can be linked to a staff and system overwhelmed by demand no one could have had anticipated.
“The problem is we don’t have enough help,” Eagle told News 6 Tuesday, “I think we’re understaffed and overworked.”
Eagle said he plans to bring in additional staff and promised to move the estimated 160,000 cases to a positive conclusion.
“We are here assessing, we are going to be helpful,” he said.
DEO press secretary Paige Landrum told News 6 Jack Stroming’s case is being reviewed.
In a statement to News 6 Landrum wrote in part, “We would like to remind your viewers that the Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their employees on the payroll during the COVID-19 pandemic. If an employer is participating in the Paycheck Protection Program, this may affect claimants' eligibility for state or federal Reemployment Assistance programs.”
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