South Floridians continue to vent about state’s flawed unemployment system

(WSVN) - Last month, a state employee exposed issues plaguing Florida’s problematic unemployment system. Now, those who still can’t collect are getting their turn to vent. The Nightteam’s Brian Entin with tonight’s 7 Investigates.

The message from frustrated Floridians is clear. They are fed up with the state’s unemployment system.

Voicemail: “Do you know what it feels to be stuck on the phone for six hours and 55 minutes, and then, the phone call disconnects automatically from the reemployment number?”

In voicemails and emails from 7News viewers have flooded our inbox.

One wrote, “Help us please!!!” Another called the system “a disgrace.”

Fela Tunon: “I had a double mastectomy. I’m a cancer survivor.”

Fela Tunon is a fighter but says she has met her match trying to collect unemployment benefits.

Jobless since January, even before the coronavirus pandemic, she still has not been paid.

Fela Tunon, still waiting to be paid: “I’ve worked the last 40 years and never collected a dime from anything, and now, I can’t even get anything. It hurts.”

Like so many others, Fela mailed in a paper application, but the employee who put her information into the system entered the wrong year for her birthday.

Fela Tunon: “They added an extra 100 years. They put my date of birth as 1857. The girl says, ‘Are you really 162 years old?’ I was done.”

Fela even emailed the governor about the odd mistake, one she says took a month to correct, and despite her claim now showing “eligible” and “active,” she has gotten nowhere.

Fela Tunon: “I’ve called and I’ve called and I’ve called and I’ve called, and I get the same answer: nobody knows.”

Teresa Lyles: “He has received zero, zero money.”

Teresa Lyles is helping her 28-year-old son, an out of work demolition and construction employee, navigate the system.

Teresa Lyles: “He wasn’t able to, so he called me, and he goes, ‘Mom, you know, you’re the one with the master’s degree, could you please go online and take care of this?’ And I said, ‘Sure, absolutely.’ And I’m thinking, ‘This is going to be an easy process.'”

Think again.

Nearly two months after the first attempt to file a claim, her son has still not received any payments.

Teresa Lyles: “I was able to get back on the website, back to his application, and there was almost nothing there that I had entered before. Instead of a bank routing number, they had a debit card. None of the employers were there.”

State employee: “We’re seeing a lot of messages from people that are begging.”

In May, this state employee, not wanting to reveal his identity, described delays in processing paper applications.

Look at this one sent by certified mail from Hialeah on April 9 but not scanned into the system until the end of May.

As for the website, the employee says repeated attempts to fix it may be contributing to disappearing data.

State employee: “I firmly believe that some of these updates that they’ve done, almost on a daily basis there for a while, caused some of these individuals to lose their work history.”

According to the state, around 96% of eligible claimants have been paid.

Teresa doesn’t buy it.

Teresa Lyles: “I know of about three other people besides my son who have filed within the last two months, who aren’t getting paid as well, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Fela Tunon: “I think I’m never going to wake up from this nightmare.”

We sent Fela and Teresa’s information to the state to see if anyone could figure out why their benefits have not been paid. We’ll update you when we learn more.


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