2-year-old unemployment claim disqualifies Disney cast member for 5 months

DEO, News 6 work to unlock 28-year-old’s benefits

ORLANDO, Fla. – After nine years as a cast member with Disney World, Marc Navarro’s only financial assistance from the Department of Economic Opportunity was stopped because of an old unemployment claim he appealed and won in 2019.

“The claim that was stopping me last year is stopping me from this year,” Navarro said. ”But that claim is two years old.”

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The old claim with Universal Studios and his current unemployment claim with Disney World created a roadblock on his DEO Connect account, leaving the 28-year-old and his girlfriend with one paycheck to cover their bills.

“We eat peanut butter, Ramen noodles and water, that’s pretty much it,” Navarro said. “I’m still on a furloughed state of layoff.”

Navarro had been fighting to get access to thousands of dollars in state and federal benefits since November 2020.

He said his depleted savings forced him to sell his car and the majority of his belongings to pay for basic expenses. His attempts to get his DEO account updated failed and he was about to become homeless.

“I’d be crying on the phone,” he recalled. “And they (DEO) were like, ‘Yep, OK, we’ll help you later OK, bye.’”

News 6 presented his account to the DEO’s reemployment team for review.

Last Friday, after five months of waiting, Navarro got the update he had been praying for: $3,000 in state and federal benefits deposited in his bank account with additional weeks still to come.

“You appreciate the little stuff you have because once you lose it you don’t know what to do,” Navarro said. “Once I saw that approved payment had been issued I said, ‘Gosh, thank you everybody!’”

The DEO said the agency is seeing an influx in “resets” after identifications are cleared by ID.me. DEO spokesperson Emilie O’Glesby said the agency is aware of the issue and that most accounts will be cleared 24 to 48 hours after the mistake is detected.

If you have an unemployment issue, email News 6: makeendsmeet@wklmg.com

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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.