Single mom claims Florida DEO holding $9,000 in benefits for 5 months

Former insurance adjustor delivering groceries to make ends meet

LAKELAND, Fla. – Ashley Butler never imagined she would have to wait nearly half a year for unemployment benefits the state confirmed she is entitled to.

The benefits totaling roughly $9,000 have been on hold since March, according to her Department of Economic Opportunity account.

“I have no idea why in the world those weeks are held, I have no idea, but I wish somebody would notice,” Butler said.

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The former Geico insurance adjustor said she was “separated” from her position in March and has been looking for full-time work ever since.

“We were working at home and Geico did a big layoff in March, at least six in my department if not more,“ Butler said.

For now, she works for the Instacart food shopping and delivery service with Publix supermarkets in the south Lakeland area.

“Every day I wake up I do Instacart right now to make ends meet,” she said. “Instacart pays per batch.”

Butler said the money earned from the grocery delivery runs helps her pay utilities and rent but the big lifeline has been from Catholic Charities.

“I’m just trying to pay my regular bills,” she said. “I’m not living extravagantly, I’m just trying to make it.”

News 6 reviewed her current DEO account and found that she is listed as active and eligible.

Butler is owed benefits from March to August 2021 but the money has not been released.

She admits her children — ages 2, 4, and 15 — present a financial challenge but, so far, family and local charities have helped her survive as she continues to look for full-time work.

“That’s a lot of money to be waiting on for unemployment,” Butler said. “It’s not like I’m trying to hit a scratch-off or a dream — this is something that’s there for me and I just can’t get access to it.”

According to the DEO 97.9% of all eligible benefits requested prior to Oct. 1 for state Reemployment Assistance, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) have been paid to claimants. Additionally, 99.9% of all eligible benefits requested by claimants for weeks of unemployment prior to July 25, 2020, have also received their corresponding Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefits for that week.

“I’ve got my resume in several different places — the courthouse, the sheriff’s office. So I have feelers out there,” Butler said.

The DEO reemployment team received her case this week and is expected to get her benefits issued soon.

If you have an unemployment issue email: 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.