Local hero struggling to get unemployment benefits

Rosler Pierre was recognized by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and named the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's "Citizen of the Year" after police said he detained a man suspected of groping a child inside a Walmart in 2019.

Now, the hailed hero needs some help of his own.

"I was the only one that’s working and then Covid hit… I lost my job. I lost both my jobs," Pierre told FOX 35.

The father of two says in March of 2020, he started getting unemployment benefits until landing a new job in October. But that gig only lasted two months and now he’s trying to get back into the troubled system.

"Every time I call, they say I have a pending issue… return to work issue. Every time I call, it’s the same thing," Pierre explained.

He says it’s been that way for months.

"We have actually had several Floridians that went back to work and then lost their job again and have faced many challenges in restarting their unemployment compensation," said Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando.

Rep. Eskamani says the Florida Department of Economic (DEO) opportunity won’t approve benefits until they can verify the person doesn’t have a job. 

"The unfortunate reality is all it takes is just staff but since DEO is so understaffed with actual claimain specialists who help specifically with claim issues… it just takes forever to get someone qualified to look at your claim," she said.

We reached out to the DEO about Pierre’s situation. The agency said: "The Department cannot comment on specific claims or claimants, but we will be sure to send this information to the reemployment assistance team for further review."

Meantime, Pierre says he's drowning in bills.

"They keep saying, ‘You have to wait, you have to wait.’ But the bills aren’t waiting. The bills are coming. Life is still going," Pierre said.