ORLANDO, Fla. – Natalie Hernandez will never forget the day her role as a concert tour stage technician was suddenly placed on indefinite hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We were in London and we heard about the travel ban and we had to leave,” she recalled. “We didn’t know if live music was returning.”
Hernandez worked for a Grammy award winning music artist -- she asked we not identify him-- when on March 8, 2020, COVID-19 forced a wave of concert cancellations across the globe.
“We didn’t really understand the severity of what was going on,” Hernandez said. ”All of my emergency savings, everything essentially gone to pay my bills.”
She said she started working with the concert tour in August 2019 and moved to Florida to be closer to her family.
She lived and worked in New York the first part of 2019 and provided her employment records to the Department of Economic Opportunity.
“You can’t apply in two places at once,” she said. “Even though I qualify they (DEO) couldn’t confirm my (New York) wages.”
Between state and federal benefits that delay has cost her roughly $15,000 in state and federal benefits.
“You know you pay into (unemployment insurance) and you expect them to work for you,” Hernandez said. ”When there is a situation so dire like this, the system is so broken.”
News 6 sent the 29-year old’s records to the Department of Economic Opportunity’s office in Tallahassee for review.
“Honestly, you were the first person actually to directly help me,” she said.
This week the DEO reemployment team updated her account and issued $20,000 in back benefits.
That figure is the highest amount issued through the DEO-Make Ends Meet partnership since it began in March 2020.
In an email to News 6 she wrote in part:
”A few days ago the last large payment came through. It was almost 20k total. I can’t express how thankful I am for your help with this. I don’t know if without you this would have been ever resolved. Being able to pay back a years worth of backed up bills and loans is a weight lifted off my shoulders like you really can’t imagine.”
WKMG is currently working with the DEO to review 250 unemployment issues.
Each case has a different timeline but in the end we are able to get results.
If you have an unemployment issue email firstname.lastname@example.org