People caravan, stage die-in to protest state’s failure to distribute unemployment benefits

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MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - People drove through South Florida in a caravan and staged a die-in in Miami Beach to protest the state’s failures in distributing unemployment benefits to jobless Floridians.

Dozens of hospitality and service industry workers protested the current unemployment situation in South Florida on Friday.

“It’s absolutely devastating,” Jason Silverman said. “We can’t take this any longer.”

Many workers have been left without income for months since their businesses were forced to close because of stay-at-home orders. Some said they have not seen any government assistance.

The protest began as a caravan starting at the Overtown Performing Arts Center and ended near A1A and 21st Street in Miami Beach. Once there, the workers stayed 6 feet apart but united in their message.

“We’re trying to get our money from Ron DeSantis,” Silverman said. “We’ve been waiting two months with no unemployment checks coming in. We demand our money now.”​

Some of the protestors said the die-in demonstration helped illustrate their struggles.

“We’re here to dramatize the situation, and that people are not only going to die from coronavirus, but they are going to die from a completely unnecessary crisis that’s been created now,” Unite Here! union spokesperson Wendi Walsh said.

Union leaders have claimed that many more workers wanted to support the cause but did not have the means to come out.

“Because they don’t have money for gas. They don’t have money for their car insurance anymore,” Service Employees International Union spokesperson Helene O’Brien said.

According to the state, more than two million reemployment claims have been filed with a reported 95% of eligible claimants already having been paid, but some said those numbers do not add up.

“The governor is out there saying that everybody has gotten their money,” Walsh said. “Well, these people haven’t gotten their money.”

The protestors were also joined by impromptu supporters such as Maria Salazar, who was out on a jog when she joined the demonstration.

“It’s an excuse every day,” Salazar said. “I’m so fed up. Every day, I’ve been on the phone for three hours, and then, I get disconnected. I can’t take this anymore.”​

7News has learned of a recent data breach in the state’s unemployment system. Officials said only about 100 people were impacted, and the problem has been fixed.

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