Florida small business owner taps into retirement to pay staff, keep going amid pandemic

After weeks of delays, unemployment benefits were issued

Florida small business owner taps into retirement to pay staff, keep going amid pandemic
Florida small business owner taps into retirement to pay staff, keep going amid pandemic

Frank Demario was just 29 years old when he opened the South Florida Messenger Service in Hollywood, Florida, a business he called his lifelong passion but last December his business fell victim to COVID-19.

“It was a tough choice,” Demario said. “Do I keep this money to survive or do I put it in the business and hope for the best?”

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The money was his retirement savings he tapped into to pay his staff and keep the business afloat.

“In 2020 I paid myself about $4,000 for the year,” he recalled. “That was my contribution to the business, working basically for free.”

Demario, now 61, was hoping to sell the business and retire in a few years instead he found himself with no income using savings to pay the bills and forced to apply for unemployment benefits.

“It’s something that went against the grain,” he shared. “To collect unemployment, I’ve never been on unemployment in my life.”

Demario called News 6 because he was unable to open a Connect account with the Department of Economic Opportunity.

He tried to file for benefits on March 13 but as of April 20 his account was still locked and unregistered.

“It’s perpetual non-motion,” he said. “You’re the first since this all started that listened.”

News 6 contacted the DEO’s reemployment team and a representative called Demario.

He was so taken back at first he thought it was a scam.

“It was Deidra, Debra and finally the adjudicator Margarite who got involved, “a happy Demario said Monday. ”I cannot thank you enough for your involvement.”

His DEO Connect account was unlocked and that allowed both state and federal funds to be issued into his bank account.

“I don’t know if you’ve got a big red ‘S’ under your shirt, but truthfully from the bottom of my heart I got huge results,” Demario said, “You need to change that banner: Getting Huge 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.