Florida couple receives $14,000 in unemployment benefits 42 days after contacting News 6

DEO warns delays could be common with 3 million issues ‘pending adjudication’

ORLANDO, Fla. – Lisa and David Fontana never imagined they would be dependent on state unemployment benefits when they moved to the Orlando area from Chicago in 2020.

The couple moved to Central Florida to get special treatment for neurological damage David Fontana sustained during a medical procedure.

Lisa Fontana said a near-deadly reaction to a pain killer administered during surgery on a fractured leg bone caused slurred speech and a foot drop, which causes the foot to drag while walking.

“Basically, it mimicked a massive stroke,” a tearful Lisa Fontana told News 6. “We saved thousands of dollars to pay for the treatment.”

When COVID-19 gutted the job market, all the money they had saved had to be used to pay their bills and apartment rent.

There were no jobs in her field of motivational and public speaking for convention events so unemployment was her only option.

Lisa Fontana said she was receiving benefits but when she recertified on Nov. 22, 2020 her DEO account had stalled because of a “double dipping” mistake that showed she had two unemployment accounts instead of one.

She turned to News 6 on May 5 convinced she would have quick results, instead it took 42 days for the account to be resolved but Lisa Fontana said it gave her the lifeline she needed to help her husband and “start a new plan.”

“Overnight this has made a huge difference,” Lisa Fontana said. “Without you, I wouldn’t be here. You got unbelievable results.”

Lisa Fontana wanted to go public with her story to inspire Florida residents still waiting for their unemployment benefits.

On June 30 at 8 a.m., Lisa Fontana’s long wait for benefits was over.

Forty-two days after she first contacted Make Ends Meet for help, a DEO representative called to confirm the money, $14,160, had been deposited in her bank account.

“When I had a chance to talk to the woman in the adjudication department, she told me very clearly that this came to her from above,” she said. “That’s you, I can’t thank you enough.”

Fontana said her fight to get benefits spanned “seven months, 31 weeks and four days” and that without the station’s help, she “would have nothing.”

The Fontanas 42-day wait could be the new normal because of a DEO system overwhelmed by heavy demand for assistance.

According to the DEO, there are a variety of issues ranging from 53,588 claims pending monetary determination to 272,000 issues locked because of “potential fraud.” Right now, there are roughly 3 million total issues pending adjudication.

The Reemployment Assistance Help Center is the tool for claimants and employers to notify the DEO of instances of reemployment assistance fraud or identity theft, provide documentation to the DEO, verify their identity, complete their work searches and it serves as a repository of resource guides and FAQs for claimants and employers who have additional questions regarding reemployment assistance.

The DEO said claimants should only submit one form per request. Some requests may take up to three weeks to resolve, some are much quicker.

If you have an unemployment issue and you want us to present it to the DEO, 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.