Former tech worker says DEO is using old records to deny unemployment benefits

State Rep. David Smith says Florida’s unemployment system needs to be replaced

Bill Zaccagnini has been trying to get state unemployment benefits since March but the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has denied his requests based on claims he filed two years ago.

“In August they gave me two reasons for my denial which were the same reasons they denied me in 2018, Zaccagnini said, “For the same companies I worked for in 2018.”

The 61-year-old former tech specialist said he was dismissed from Worldwide Tech Services in 2018.

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Records show circumstances surrounding the dismissal made him ineligible for standard unemployment benefits that year.

“Every time I get a hold of them (DEO) they say they can see the issue just wait a couple of weeks you should get your money,” he said. “But that never happens.”

Zaccagnini is one of thousands of unemployed Floridians caught in various benefits delays usually linked to some sort of glitch or back-log.

State Rep. David Smith (R) of Seminole County District 28 said he is convinced the DEO’s Connect system is outdated and was never designed to accommodate the numbers seeking unemployment benefits.

“Nobody could have anticipated a global pandemic putting 2 million Floridians out of work,” Smith said. “We cannot leave Tallahassee without having a clear path to replace the connect system.”

The new Florida legislative session begins in March and at this point no committee appointments have been made.

DEO Director Dane Eagle said he will be requesting an additional $5 million to hire roughly 100 people to handle the benefits demand.

Eagle said he has hired an independent 3rd party company to review the current connect system and he will present the findings to the state legislature in the new session.

Zaccagnini meanwhile is hopeful the DEO will get the benefits issue cleared up before Christmas.

He should be eligible for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits if his regular state benefits have been exhausted.

“You want to give up sometimes‚” he said. “I don’t know what to say or do any more, I’ve never been in this position before ion my life.”

DEO press secretary Paige Landrum said Zaccagnini’s account has been sent to the Reemployment team for “further review.”

In a statement to News 6 Landrum said in part: “In general, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) is available to individuals who have exhausted all rights to regular Reemployment Assistance benefits with respect to a benefit year that ended on or after July 1, 2019. An individual may not be eligible for PEUC if they are ineligible due to a disqualification under state law.”

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