Long lines form as Hialeah distributes paper unemployment forms at 4 pickup sites

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HIALEAH, FLA. (WSVN) - As Florida’s unemployment website continues to struggle due to the overwhelming amount of applicants, the City of Hialeah is offering a way for people to pick up physical applications.

Hialeah is opening four sites:

  • Slade Park (2501 W. 74th St., Hialeah, FL 33016)
  • Goodlet Park (4200 W. 8th Ave., Hialeah, FL 33012)
  • John F. Kennedy Library (190 W. 49th St., Hialeah, FL 33012)
  • Babcock Park (651 E. 4th Ave., Hialeah, FL 33010)

The sites opened Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will remain open until further notice.

Wednesday’s operations began over an hour early due to the number of people waiting in line to pick up applications.

At one site, long lines of traffic extended for several blocks and remained that way for several hours as people, such as Elana Sosa, waited in line to collect their applications.

“I’m at the end of my rope,” Sosa said. “I only have about $100 left in the bank. That is not enough!”

However, some people like Raymond Thetford, who has tried to access the unemployment system for three weeks, ran into problems while trying to pick up an application.

“They’re saying there’s no copies in English,” he said. “They said they’re calling to get some probably in another half an hour. It seems like there’s no end to this thing. Everywhere you go, there is some obstacle.”

The public is being reminded that the unemployment application is available for printing online and can be filled out at home and mailed to the unemployment office in Tallahassee. The application pick-up is only for persons who do not have access to a printer at their homes.

There’s also another option thanks to FedEx and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“I spoke with the CEO of FedEx to help if people want to have the applications for unemployment printed there that they would print it at no cost,” said the governor, “let them fill it out, put it in a box, and then, they would send every night to Tallahassee the completed applications.”

A number of people who lined up did not show up for an application but instead had questions regarding the difficulty they experienced online when trying to apply. However, the people at the distributing sites are simply handing out applications and are not prepared to answer any online-related questions people may have.

Hialeah commissioner Carl Zogby said they have already distributed hundreds of applications and plan to continue for as long as they need to.

“All we’re trying to do is get enough applications here today, so those people who have been waiting in line for a long time can get out and get back into the safety of their homes,” he said, “because we’ve tried to tell them, ‘Stay in your car, stay apart,’ but we can’t force them to do it, unfortunately. We’re trying to get them to comply, and this is the best we’ve been able to do, so now, we’ve got to get them out of here as quickly as possible.”

Police officers joined volunteers to assist in handing out the documents so that the lines move quickly.

Gus Rios tried to sleep in his parked car outside of the John F. Kennedy Library Tuesday night, but because of the stay-at-home order in place for Hialeah, officers told him to head home.

“The situation is very complicated right now for us, the working people,” Rios said. “I have to do something to survive, myself, like everybody else.”

“We gotta survive now,” said another recipient. “This is our survival.”

“Jobs cancelled, they sending people home from their jobs,” said one recipient.

On Monday morning, DeSantis said the unemployment system was increased to handle 120,000 simultaneous connections, or around double the peak usage in recent weeks.

“We had 250 new call takers in place [Monday],” DeSantis said. “I think we’re adding to that [Tuesday] and [Wednesday] as well.”

Members of South Florida’s Congressional delegation have expressed their anger towards the system’s glitches.

“[The governor] absolutely needs to use his emergency power to make the unemployment compensation payments retroactive, especially because the system is broken,” U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla., said.

They said they supported the $2.2 trillion stimulus package in Washington but added that the problem is until people can get entered into the system, millions of federal dollars are not getting to the people who need it.

“We can’t take weeks to get people their checks,” U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., said. “It’s just not fair to them. We’ve done our job. Now, the state needs to do its job.”

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said, starting Wednesday, people who don’t have access to computers can go to one of 26 libraries in the county to fill out their unemployment claim and return it to that same location.

The number to call to find one close to you is 305-375-2665.

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