LAKE MARY, Fla. - Thousands of Floridians are being told they are ineligible for state unemployment benefits, leaving many frustrated and confused.
Jeff Farrell said he was furloughed from the hospitality industry in late March because of COVID-19 business shutdowns. He applied for unemployment benefits through Florida’s CONNECT system but recently found out he did not qualify for state benefits.
He said the system did not state a reason why and he could not get in contact with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to find out why he was denied.
“You call, you get the recording, it disconnects,” he said.” The system told Farrell he could reapply or appeal the decision.
On Monday night, the DEO website showed more than 200,000 processed claims, or 40 percent, were ineligible for benefits.
State Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez (District-37) said he thinks people are being denied because of rules regarding wage history and the wage base period. He said, “Likely a lot of people are being disqualified by the arbitrary rules that calculate how much work you did.”
Senator Rodriguez said that may mean seasonal workers or people who have lower income may not make it through the system, particularly if their work history is recent.
“In order for the system to decide you have worked enough to qualify for unemployment benefits, the system looks at the last five quarters, the last year and three months,” the senator said. “They disregard the most recent quarter and look at the four months; and did you do enough work in two of those two quarters during that year and there’s a whole bunch of other formulas that apply.”
Senator Rodriguez said he is working with others to try and get Governor Ron DeSantis to reconsider the regulations so more Floridians can get help during the coronavirus pandemic.
People who did not qualify for state benefits may still be eligible for federal benefits under the CARES Act, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (PUA). The $600 weekly federal benefits are also available to people who would not normally be eligible for state benefits, including gig workers, independent contractors and people who are self-employed. To find out more on how to submit a new application for state benefits or to find out if you need to apply for federal beneftis visit the Florida CONNECT system website.