Florida’s new unemployment security sign-up gets mixed reviews as pandemic-benefit programs expire

Unemployed question last minute change days before federal benefits end

Florida’s unemployed were facing two deadlines this week as the clock runs out on pandemic-related benefit programs and a new multi-authentication system by the Department of Economic Opportunity Thursday received mixed reviews from happy to very frustrated claimants.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs are both set to expire Sept. 6.

Email and text messages sent to the WKMG’s Make Ends Meet team saw a blitz of frustrated men and women waiting anywhere from 30 minutes to 6 hours to crack the new DEO system and sign up.

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Stacy Morris, an unemployed grocery produce broker from Zellwood, reached out to Make Ends Meet early Thursday morning and after going through a few delays she was able to set up a new account just before 6 p.m.

During a zoom interview from her home, she applauded the security protocol “because of all the people who have been hacked” but was critical of the last-minute system changes.

“I think it’s frustrating because you already have a claimant account why would you have to set up a whole new one?”

Later in the day, she sent an email to News 6 relieved the system finally worked: ”I just entered my social security number and I was able to log into the DEO web page, thank you for everything.”

Morris said she will be able to apply for her weeks next Thursday.

DEO Communications Director Emilie Oglesby conceded the heavy demand on the new system created a log jam early in the day on Thursday, but IT was able to expand the system to accommodate more claimants.

“I know they don’t want to hear this but be patient, “ Oglesby said. “The system was not running sooner because it took time to get the new protocol ready for operation.”

What claimants were most concerned about is collecting back benefits after the federal deadline for emergency benefits expire on Sept. 6.

“If they are eligible to receive benefits, they will receive what they are owed,” Oglesby told News 6, “Claimants who need additional weeks available should submit an inquiry in the Reemployment Assistance Help Center.”

Claimants should go to benefit payment assistance to complete the request.

After the federal benefits programs expire, claimants will have 30 days to submit an application for PUA benefits. The Department will continue to pay eligible claimants the PUA and PEUC benefits they are owed for weeks of unemployment through the week ending Sept. 4.

If you have an unemployment issue email makeendsmeet@wkmg.com or text the words Make Ends Meet to 407-676-7428.

An example of the DEO help center form (WKMG 2021)

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.