Congressman Soto calls on Gov. DeSantis for unemployment benefits timeline

Federal officials say Florida has the slowest response rate for unemployment benefits in the entire country.

For a lot of people that means bills are due and the money isn’t there.  

“Seven out of eight of those who applied in Florida have yet to receive their unemployment benefits and this is unacceptable,” said U.S. Rep. Darren Soto.

The state launched a dashboard Monday with unemployment assistance numbers.   

It says of the more than 650,000 confirmed claims that have been submitted since March 15, only around 40,000 people have been paid. That’s about 6 percent.

“Bills have a timeline. Therefore, people’s unemployment benefits need to have a timeline. People need to organize their finances, they have obligations, they have families to support. They need to know when this help is coming in,” Soto said.

He and other members of Congress sent a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis asking him to provide a timeline to the hundreds of thousands of Floridians still waiting.

“That’s probably been the most frustrating part.. is not having any idea – is anyone trying to help,” said Tonya Olson, who has been trying to access unemployment assistance.

She isn’t eligible for state benefits because she’s self-employed but she does qualify for the weekly $600 federal checks funded by the CARES Act.

Problem is – It’s still not clear how she can apply for that money.  

While the state says its sent out more than 23,000 $600 checks so far, it’s unclear how self-employed people and independent contractors can access that funding.

A Department of Economic Opportunity spokesperson said Monday: “DEO will provide more information on federal pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) and how to apply in the coming week.”

 “If we knew that we needed to wait - that it would be a month, six weeks, two months. At least we would know the money is coming. That would be a significant measure of relief,” Olson said.

DEO and the Governor’s office did not say whether they will work to provide a payment timeline to Floridians on their benefits.