Can I Stay on Unemployment Instead of Working?

(WSVN) - Who pays your medical bills if you go back to work and catch the coronavirus? Can you stay on unemployment instead of working? How can you find out where your stimulus money is? As South Florida reopens, answers to those questions and a lot more in tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

South Florida is slowly starting to reopen restaurants, hair salons and stores.

That solves some problems, but now, it’s creating more problems for South Floridians.

Caller 1: “I am being called back to work, but I have to deal with a lot of customers. If I catch the coronavirus, does the company have to pay my medical bills and salary?”

Howard Finkelstein, 7News Legal Expert: “It’s a valid question. If you are a first responder or health care provider, your worker’s comp should cover you because it is assumed you got it on the job. Now, for other positions, like a store clerk or restaurant, you would have to prove you contracted the disease at work, and that is extremely difficult, so you would not be covered there.”

Another viewer had another call back to work question.

Caller 2: “I work in a doctor’s office. We have been told before we can start working again, we have to sign a release saying we won’t hold the company responsible if we catch the coronavirus. What should I do?”

Howard Finkelstein: “This is a great question. Legally, these releases may be violating public policy, meaning even if you sign it, the courts may declare it unenforceable, allowing you to sue your employer if they are negligent and not maintaining a safe work environment, but remember, this is all new ground that has not been legally explored yet.”

But many more South Floridians still don’t have a job to go back to.

Stephanie Limardo, can’t get unemployment: “It’s one of my best jobs. I love that place.”

Stephanie worked as a theater manager. When the state ordered them closed back in March, she immediately applied for unemployment.

Stephanie Limardo: “I got a letter saying I was ineligible for benefits, so I had to go ahead and reapply.”

Of course, Stephanie was eligible. The state bungled it and now has made it next to impossible to appeal their faulty decision through more bureaucratic gobbledygook.

Stephanie Limardo: “Because they say my determination has to be viewed first, and when I try to view my determination, they say my determination is not available to be viewed.”

Eight weeks without a paycheck because of a broken unemployment system. How can you survive that?

Stephanie Limardo: “It’s beyond frustrating.”

Well, Howard, there are hundreds of thousands of Stephanies still waiting for state and federal unemployment.

Howard Finkelstein: “The unemployment disaster has just crushed people when they were already down but don’t give up, you will eventually get your money, and remember if you are brought back to work, legally you are still entitled to the money from when you were unemployed, even though you are working now.”

Now, an unemployment question and reopening tied together. One person told us he is afraid of getting the coronavirus and wants to stay on unemployment.

A waitress told us she is making $800 a week on unemployment and will make much less at her job because of the slow openings.

Howard, they both have jobs they want to return to, but they want to stay on unemployment in the meantime. Can they?

Howard Finkelstein: “This question is political dynamite, but legally, it’s simple. If your employer offers your job back, you have to go to work. If you don’t, you will lose your unemployment and not have a job either.”

One more question. The state has blocked landlords from evicting people who have not paid rent. When will that expire?

Howard Finkelstein: “Unless it gets extended, right now, the order blocking residential evictions expires on June 2. After that day, the eviction process can resume.”

It’s been a terrible few months for so many people, and now it’s clear there will also be many more months of misery ahead for many more people.”

Stephanie Limardo: “I’ve worked so hard to be here. It’s being taken away. A lot of hopelessness.”

The state gave us a number to call to figure out why you are not getting unemployment. That number can be found down below.

Also, many of you have still not gotten your stimulus money. A link to try to find out why is also below.

Howard Finkelstein: “As the coronavirus continues and we move into a new phase, new problems continue to pop up. If you need help or need some legal advice, please let us know. We will always be here for you.”

To Find Out About Your Stimulus Money

Claims specific questions? Call 1-833-FL-APPLY and choose the “Claims Specific” option.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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