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Previously incarcerated Floridians kept from unemployment benefits

Many unemployed Floridians who have been arrested in the past said they had a hold placed on their benefits.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Many unemployed Floridians who have been arrested in the past said they randomly had a hold placed on their benefits.

People in First Coast News’ Facebook group, Navigating Florida’s Unemployment Maze, are calling this the “incarceration hold.”

“It’s my past that’s haunting me,” said Tara Sandlin, who served a few months in jail eight years ago. “I’ve been in recovery. It’s been seven years, I’ve been clean. It was me partying and being wild in my 20s.”

Now Sandlin has three kids she’s supporting and unemployment payments have been crucial for her family after she lost her job due to the pandemic.

“We’re struggling,” Sandlin said. “Our refrigerators are empty, our lights are about to be turned off.”

These claimants are seeing a message saying their claim is “pending adjudication” and two weeks of payments are on hold.

Unemployment expert Vanessa Brito found the common denominator between the sudden surge of claimants on hold being they all have been arrested at some point. She spread the word via social media and on FCN’s Facebook group.

“If it wasn’t for me seeing what I saw on the group, I still would have been clueless,” said Renee Lopez. “People were getting incarceration holds.”

Unemployment expert Vanessa Brito says the state is checking to see if people receiving benefits are currently in jail, which she said is the source of the mix-up.

FCN reached out to the Department of Economic Opportunity to find out why they say this is happening. We didn’t receive a response.

“I just wish DEO got their act together because Floridians are really suffering,” Lopex said.

Brito has found ways you can have this hold removed from your account, and many claimants are reporting they are working.

  1. Contact DEO via phone at 1-800-204-2418 or online chat
  2. Ask the CLAIMS SPECIFIC AGENT if your adjudication message is due to a previous incarceration (even if it was years ago or you've never been incarcerated)
  3. If yes, then you MUST ask that the incarceration/availability hold be voided.
  4. Ask if they have a Fact-Finding for you on file for that incarceration/availability and CONFIRM IT IS PROCESSED.

You can also fill out Brito's form to be sent to DEO.

Holds are typically released within two days of performing the above steps.

If not removed or unsuccessful, prepare an email with the following information and contact Brito for the email address of the appropriate DEO Contact.

Email Verbiage Should Include:

  • Subject: Incarceration Hold
  • Body of Email:
  • Name
  • Claimant ID
  • Only thing you should stay in the body is "Please lift my incarceration hold. I’ve served my time.
  • Attach any kind of documentation regarding your incarceration.

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