Coronavirus in Florida: Unemployment issues not going away for many South Floridians

MIAMI – Thousands of people are still struggling to survive, desperate for financial assistance and having a lot of trouble cutting through the red tape.

The unemployment rolls are about to spike as American Airlines gets ready to lay off thousands of pilots and flight attendants. 

Manuel Sosa moved to South Florida to take care of his health-compromised mother.

He worked doing security at strip club The Booby Trap in Doral, but when the entire nightlife industry shut down in mid-march due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sosa, like so many Floridians, applied for unemployment, or at least he tried to. 

“I got a job working at night so I could take care of her during the day. Just recently, two and a half weeks ago, she had a mini stroke,” Sosa said. “This was a full time job just attempting to claim my benefits. I’m not asking for a handout.”

He says it took two weeks just to be able to file a claim, and it wasn’t until an attorney with legal services intervened that he finally got paid, just last week. Five months later. 

Sosa also contacted State Senator Jason Pizzo, who’s made a personal mission out of helping people get benefits. 

On Tuesday, American Airlines, one of South Florida’s largest employers, announced another 19,000 workers will be furloughed or laid-off by October due to financial hardship from COVID-19, burdening an already stressed system. 

Entire industries wiped out, Sosa says, seemingly overnight.

“Bartenders, bar backs, cooks, bussers, dishwashers, car valet parkers,” he said. 

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