Christopher Fonde, of Sarasota, never imagined a software program designed to help people collect unemployment benefits would leave him without a dime six weeks after he filed for benefits with the Department of Economic Opportunity.
The 62-year-old software analyst lost his full-time job with Jackson Hewitt last year because of COVID-19.
He told News 6 the state unemployment system is lacking real communication options more than a year after the heavy demand for unemployment assistance began during the pandemic.
“In the last five weeks I’ve emailed them five times and I’ve never had a response from anybody,” Fonde said. “I think the worst part is just the not knowing where your claim stands.”
Fonde is among an estimated 272,000 unemployed Florida residents who have been locked out of their CONNECT unemployment accounts.
The DEO told News 6 the accounts have been locked because of “potential fraud” that has seen impostors redirect benefits into phantom bank accounts.
To counter the fraud attempts the state has hired ID.me to verify identities using state driver licenses and other forms of identification as well as a face to face interviews conducted by “video referees.”
“I’ve been verified by ID.me for well over a month,” a frustrated Fonde told News 6,” Fonde said. “Every time I log into the website it tells me you’re all set and it’s back to square one again.”
Fonde is currently owed more than $2,000 in state and federal benefits.
News 6 presented Fonde’s case to the DEO reemployment team and should have the account updated in three weeks or less.
According to the DEO, there are a variety of issues that have caused a backlog in the system ranging from 53,588 claims pending monetary determination to more than 3 million total issues pending Adjudication.
DEO Press Secretary Andrew Nixon said the agency is working to get benefits issued “as quickly as possible.”
Nixon said the Reemployment Assistance Help Center is the perfect tool for claimants and employers to notify DEO of instances of Reemployment Assistance fraud or identity theft, provide documentation to DEO, verify their identity, complete their work searches, and serves as a repository of resource guides and FAQ’s for claimants and employers who have additional questions regarding Reemployment Assistance.
The DEO said unemployment 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: firstname.lastname@example.org or text makeendsmeet to 407-676-7428. You will be able to communicate with Mike Holfeld to get your account reviewed.