Unemployed grandmother fears unpaid pandemic benefits are lost

PUA benefits ended for thousands Sept. 6

Diane Rose has survived on weekly Pandemic Unemployment Assistance since her house cleaning business fell victim to COVID-19 in June 2020.

The once-thriving business of more than 30 clients has gone the way of many small businesses that required personal contact during the pandemic.

“I have older clients, they are afraid of COVID-19, especially with the delta variant,” she said.

The Lake Mary grandmother said she is still owed at least $4,000 in state and federal benefits, 16 weeks never paid by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

“I owe bills I need that, that’s a lot of weeks,” Rose said. “It’s very stressful on the whole family.”

Rose is one of thousands of Florida residents who lost the PUA lifeline on Sept. 6, the day the federal emergency benefits officially expired.

She is convinced that money could be lost in the state’s bureaucratic shuffle leaving her with mounting bills and her son’s lone income to make ends meet.

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“You have to worry about if you have a place to live, electric, water a vehicle to drive,” she said.

Last Thursday the DEO launched a new multi-factor authentication system to block impostors from accessing Florida unemployment accounts.

The DEO sent out Twitter alerts last Monday and Tuesday that announced claimants would soon be required to have an email address that was not shared along with multi-factor authentication via cell phone, text or app.

Rose said she was unaware of the system change and was unable to access her account.

After she contacted Make Ends Meet News 6 provided the links she needed to change and verify her account and file a claim for back benefits.

DEO Communications Director Emilie Oglesby said the department will make sure all benefits are issued to anyone who is eligible.

“Claimants who need additional weeks available should submit an inquiry in the Reemployment Assistance Help Center,” Oglesby said.

Any claimant who has not changed their account needs to understand their current PIN will not work.

One DEO source explained “It’s a new layer of security,” unemployment claimants will need to create a new account in the DEO verification system.

Think about it this way: New system = new account; new account = new password. In other words, your CONNECT password doesn’t work for this new layer of security.

Go to this link to put in a formal request for back benefits.

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

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.