‘Incarceration status’ leaves single mom without unemployment benefits for 7 weeks

DEO works with News 6 to correct Connect account issue

Victoria Thomas is the first to admit she was driving on a suspended driver license in 2018 but she cannot explain why that event prompted the Department of Economic Opportunity to suspend her state unemployment benefits.
Victoria Thomas is the first to admit she was driving on a suspended driver license in 2018 but she cannot explain why that event prompted the Department of Economic Opportunity to suspend her state unemployment benefits.

BAY COUNTY, Fla. – Victoria Thomas is the first to admit she was driving on a suspended driver license in 2018 but she cannot explain why that event prompted the Department of Economic Opportunity to suspend her state unemployment benefits.

“They said that I had to prove that I wasn’t in jail as of the moment,” the frustrated single mom told News 6. “I couldn’t believe it, I was like, ‘Where is this coming from?’”

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Thomas said she was jailed overnight in 2018 but was released the following day. Bay County records confirm she paid the fine and has not been in any trouble with the law since.

Thomas is one of dozens of Florida residents reporting what appears to be a glitch in the DEO records system that lists unemployed men and women currently behind bars.

A DEO spokesperson said the number of Florida residents impacted by the incarceration issue changes day by day.

For Thomas and her son it was a financial black hole that left them just days away from being evicted from their come.

“I don’t have any income but unemployment,” Thomas said. “When I go on where my weeks are listed it (reads) hold , hold , hold.”

Thomas said she worked for a local house cleaning company in Panama City for three years but lost her job when the owner was forced to leave in March 2020 because of the pandemic .

News 6 contacted the DEO’s reemployment team and was able to have the account amended last week.

WKMG’s Make Ends Meet Account was able to issue money from a viewer to help her with back rent.

A grateful Thomas wrote in an email, “I just want to start off by saying that I appreciate everything that you have done for me and my family! You don’t know how much stress that came off me being able to pay my landlord. I received the money that your financial institution sent! And the next day my account was unlocked! They issued me all of the money that was on hold and it had helped me out so much! You are such a blessing for everything you have done!”

Each case is different but of you are eligible for benefits News 6 will work with the DEO to get results.

If you have an unemployment issue email makeendsmeet@wkmg.com.


About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.