REDINGTON SHORES, Fla. — Kathy Kennedy fought back tears as she described her desperation.
"Governor DeSantis, if you hear this, please, please help me get my unemployment. I’m not asking for anything that’s not mine. I’m not a lazy bum. I’ve worked my whole life," said Kennedy, a server in Redington Shores.
In March, Kennedy said she filed for unemployment when the state shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. She said she could never get through online or on the phone so she ended up mailing in two paper applications.
Kennedy says to this day, she still hasn't seen a penny.
"I’ve never been in this position. I’ve always been a fighter. Right now, I don’t know where to turn. Should I drive to Tallahassee? Would they pay me then?," said Kennedy, who's been working in hospitality for more than forty years.
Kennedy has called her state representative and even asked her church to help her fearing her electric will be shut off the end of the month.
"It took everything I had. I’ve never asked for help. It was mortifying to be honest with you," she said.
State Representative Anna Eskamani, a democrat from Orlando says she's still hearing stories like Kennedy's.
"To this day in late July, we’re still getting e-mails from folks who have not seen a penny," said Eskamani.
In May, DeSantis said he was launching an investigation by the Chief Inspector General to figure out what went wrong with the state's unemployment system.
10 Tampa Bay reached out to the governor's office about the status of the investigation. They said they were not available for an interview.
Eskamani says she hasn't heard any updates on the investigation and has found it increasingly more difficult to deal with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
"When the governor announced the investigation it was the heat of when the unemployment system was reaching a boiling point and he felt pressure to at least say something," added Eskamani.
The Governor's office did send 10 Tampa Bay this statement:
To date, DEO has paid more than 1.7 million claimants a total of more than $11.2 billion in reemployment assistance.
Eskamani wants to see an overhaul of the entire system and people held accountable for the failure.
She said, "We need to dig deeper into this and there are elected officials at the statewide level who knew there were issues and the chose to ignore them and they need to respond to people of Florida with why."
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity sent us this statement:
The Department is committed to ensuring all eligible Floridians are paid as quickly as possible and will pay all the benefits owed to claimants. The Department strongly encourages individuals to log-in to CONNECT and ensure all information is accurate and complete. Individuals should also be sure to request their benefit payments for the week they are unemployed. If they are requesting benefits and still not receiving payment, it may be an adjudication issue or a unique issue to the claimant, 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. (Here is a guide and video on how to do that.)
What other people are reading right now:
- Body of missing 5-year-old found in Highlands County lake
- Universal Orlando cancels Holloween Horror Nights
- Opening Day tweet from the Rays calls for the arrests of Breonna Taylor's killers
- Longtime Rep. Buchanan staffer dies from COVID-19
- Florida passes 400,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19
- Hillsborough County Schools reopening delayed by 2 weeks to Aug. 24
- Trump cancels Jacksonville segment of Republican National Convention
- Here are the reopening plans for Tampa Bay school districts
FREE 10 TAMPA BAY APP:
►Stay In the Know! Sign up now for the Brightside Blend Newsletter