JACKSONVILLE, Fla — The struggles of Floridians navigating the state's unemployment maze seem to be far from over, but one local teacher is speaking out to say the waiting needs to end.
Monique Tabor, a performing arts teacher who worked at a small private school in Jacksonville, originally filed her claim in early June. Since she is not on a contract and readying for a new teaching job in the fall, she should qualify for and receive state unemployment benefits.
After filing, she was deemed "eligible" and would later receive one payment of $600. But that's where the money stopped.
"Already as a single mother, it's hard to support a family in a one-income household," Tabor said. "You can't divide into zero very well, so it's very critical. It's impacted my household tremendously."
For weeks, Tabor has tried to reach a representative at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. She said the one time she was able to get through the system, she was hung up on.
"It's extremely frustrating and extremely stressful to feel ignored and discarded, and to watch people celebrate like there's a victory because most of everybody was taken care of," she said. "But what about the rest of us who are still waiting?"
While Florida's unemployment office reports the vast majority of eligible unemployment claims have received some form of payment, we still do not know how many have been paid in full.
The state reports 96.6 percent of eligible claimants paid, out of around 1.8 million eligible claims. Around 300,000 claims are in the "verification" stage.
Since Tabor has received one payment, she falls into the category of "claimants paid." But the state has a long way to go before she is paid what she is owed.
"It's looked at as a victory. 'We've got most of everybody taken care of!' But what about that percentage that's not taken care of?" Tabor asked. "It's not a victory until everybody's taken care of."
First Coast News has heard from many claimants who have had the same or similar experiences: one or two payments before the money just stops.
FDEO responded to our inquiry about Tabor's case and the case of other claimants with the following statement:
"DEO strongly encourages individuals to log-in to CONNECT and ensure all information is accurate and complete. Individuals should also be sure to claim their weeks. If they are claiming weeks and still not receiving payment, we would recommend they call the Customer Service Center at 1-833-FL-APPLY for additional assistance. DEO also encourages individuals to set up direct deposit as their payment method. Claimants will receive their Reemployment Assistance payments much faster if they can set up direct deposit.
DEO remains committed to ensuring all eligible Floridians are paid the benefits they are owed as quickly as possible."
But Tabor said she has claimed every week since she was first approved for benefits, and still has not seen what she is owed.
FDEO said her claim would be looked at and addressed.
"It feels like it's on purpose, just to get people to give up," Tabor said.