MIAMI, Fla. – Florida has more unemployment claims than any other state in the nation according to the Department of Labor. Florida’s unemployment relief system has had some successes: three out of four applications are now in the cue for payment, but there is still so much dysfunction for so many unemployed.
Mother of four children Stephanie Reyes, laid off from her job as a tour boat guide, is one of two million unemployed in Florida. The number is more like two million plus of people filing for unemployment with 432,000 new claims coming in to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity just last week.
On the national level, the number is 30.3 million people out of work with 3.8 million filing unemployment claims last week.
Juan Alarcon filed for unemployment and he is in the dark about his application to the state for relief. "No mail, nothing, nada," Alarcon said.
Freelance photographer Tom Tracey is frustrated by Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s Re-employment Assistance Application portal and its 1-800 Helpline. He said he just goes around and around in circles when trying to contact them for assistance.
Complaints to Local 10 fill the inbox about the difficulties those out of work go up against when the try to contact the call centers that are run by contractors and that records show the state is paying out more than $100 million.
We called, like any Florida resident, and found a representative who couldn’t be nicer, but could not help, however. He told Local 10′s Glenna Milberg that she should try re-dialing.
"You're going to get a rep that is connected," the voice on the other end of the line said. "They will take care of you … that's all it is."
We asked: "So I call the same number and press the same buttons and it's the luck of the draw that I get another rep that is able to get online?"
The representative responded: “You know what, I hate to, um, word it like that but, yes, pretty much.”
Representatives told us that the sheer number of calls they are getting is simply overwhelming.
When we spoke to another representative, she said she did not feel capable to handle the types of calls that she had been getting.