New COVID-19 related laws have unemployed concerned about delays in unemployment benefits

Unemployment activist Vanessa Brito said Floridians just want consistency across the board

A package of bills signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis has some unemployed Floridians struggling to understand how much longer they will have to wait for their unemployment benefits.

One of the new laws passed after the special session is aimed at preventing workers from losing their jobs for refusing to comply with COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The law promises to compensate those workers with benefits.

Unemployment activist Vanessa Brito has been working tirelessly to help people navigate the state’s unemployment system after thousands lost their job amid the pandemic, she said the new measure has left that group still trying to collect benefits out.

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“It really makes people feel disenfranchised like ‘hey what about me, I’ve been waiting for over a year and a half I lost my house, my car has been repossessed, and still nothing has been done,” Brito said.

She said many of the people who lost their job through no fault of their own called for a special session last year and were denied. Brito said some people haven’t received any unemployment benefits since December.

“That’s where the special session failed, the special session was great, you try to be equitable and try to make sure everybody will qualify for benefits regardless of where they stand politically, that’s fine and dandy, what happens when the system doesn’t work for anybody, and it’s a lack of consistency here that is the problem,” she said.

However, officials with the Department of Economic Opportunity issued an emailed statement to News 6 and said the department has taken many actions to improve their reemployment assistance system by modernizing the system.

“They took steps to modernize the system by adding a multi-factor authentication system for people to be able to sign in so people wouldn’t have their identity stolen, they would have to verify their identity,” Brito said that change still doesn’t fix the errors, “The system now locks people out anyway even if they have already verified their identity,” Brito said.

Brito hopes that some of these issues will be resolved and said Floridians just want consistency across the board.

“It’s never been a pro-vaccine, anti-vaccine concept it’s that the system should consistently work for everybody.”


About the Author:

Nicky Zizaza is an Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 6 nightside team in December 2018. She is originally from Rwanda and she started her journalism career in the nation's capital.