BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – Denisse Higgins-Tuffley says her business as a courtroom analyst for insurance defense cases went from flourishing to flat when COVID-19 forced courts to shut down last year.
“March 16 was my last trial date,” Higgins-Tuffley said. ”The courthouses decided to halt all of the jury trials.”
The self-employed analyst is the sole owner of ASAP Trial Technologies based in Broward County but hired for electronic insurance defense cases across the country.
When her business came to a halt, she told News 6 she applied for unemployment benefits, complete with 1099 tax forms.
Nearly 21 weeks later, she had no explanation for why she hasn’t received any help.
“I have a spreadsheet and it looks like they owe me $14,000,” the frustrated courtroom analyst said. “Make a long story short, I’ve had to sell a lot of stuff so we don’t get evicted.”
Higgins-Tuffley is highly critical of the Department of Economic Opportunity’s current unemployment system.
She told News 6 the DEO needs a separate website to accommodate self-employed workers who find themselves out of work and in need of weekly benefits.
“They knew this system was not going to be able to sustain the self-employed,” she said, " It took them four months to process that they actually received (my) records.”
She said a recent separation with her husband left her in a difficult financial situation, draining her savings and forcing drastic cutbacks.
“Are you kidding? I’m surprised I don’t have an eviction notice yet,” she said.
News 6 checked Higgins-Tuffley’s claims and found that on Jan. 12 her account had expired but that may be linked to the 1099 delays.
News 6 presented her files to the DEO for complete review.
In an email, DEO Communications spokesman John Farmer confirmed, “This is under review by the Reemployment Assistance team.”
Higgins-Tuffley said if the DEO reviews her wages they should confirm her findings.
The DEO is usually able to update accounts presented by News 6 in five business days.
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