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System error deems thousands of unemployed Floridians ineligible for benefits

First Coast News sent 1257 claims to the Department of Economic Opportunity and asked for answers as to why this was happening to them.

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — Thousands of unemployment claims have been riddled with problems after the CARES Act expired on Dec. 26.

Thousands of claimants who utilized the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (PUA) were switched to a regular state program they don’t qualify for. This caused them to have an ineligible status for future benefits.

First Coast News sent 1257 claims to the Department of Economic Opportunity and asked for answers as to why this was happening to them.

“Based on the end date of the CARES Act as of 12/26, the system has switched those claimants to ineligible due to the program end date,” said Paige Landrum, DEO press secretary. “The Department is diligently working on extending the end dates of the program, as well as providing additional benefits as applicable.”

“It’s been chaos,” said state representative Anna Eskamani. “This has been going on for nine months. You would think knowing PUA and PEUC were coming to a close that there would have been some sort of communication to Floridians just to prepare people.”

Floridians had no warning as to what their claims would look like, or if there would be a delay in benefits until the federal benefit extension from the new COVID relief package would be implemented.

“It looks like the CONNECT system really wasn’t programmed to provide a next option for that expiration,” Eskamani said. “And what’s happening instead is folks are seeing their account completely change.”

“They’ve had the time to know how to fix the system,” said Josephine Sandelis, who was switched to a state claim and found ineligible.  “What’s going to happen? Because DEO hasn’t released a statement saying, ‘this is how we are going to work it out. We got you covered.’”

Sandelis is worried by the time her claim is fixed, it could be too late.

 “How much more must I have to wait? Can my car wait? No it will get repossessed,” Sandelis said.

“It does feel like it’s April again,” Eskamani said. “There’s so much uncertainty and folks don’t know what to do and the reality is we definitely could have prevented that.”

    

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