Coronavirus Reveals How Bad Florida's Unemployment System Really Is
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Being Unemployed In An Epidemic Is Bad Enough, But Florida Has Made It Even Worse

How a broken website and appalling policies have hurt Floridians.

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Being Unemployed In An Epidemic Is Bad Enough, But Florida Has Made It Even Worse

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has thrown America, with the rest of the world, into an uncanny reality. With grocery shelves empty, highways cleared, and flights at their cheapest, the fear is palpable. Since the pandemic struck the United States, a staggering 17 million people have applied for unemployment. The virus has forced retail stores, restaurants, and other small businesses to close their doors. Seventy-eight percent of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck. Families wait anxiously for their direct deposits when food runs low in their fridges and bills begin to pile on one another. Now millions of those families won't be receiving their lifeline.

For Floridians, matters are only worse.

Florida's unemployment benefits are some of the lowest in America. Weekly paid benefits cap at $275, which hasn't been adjusted in more than 20 years despite the cost of living continually rising. In addition to unliveable benefits, the application website has repeatedly crashed and glitched in the last month due to heavy traffic, leaving Floridians unable to file their claim. With the inability to file online, residents missed out on weeks of crucial benefits and Florida does not offer backpay from the starting time of unemployment. Of those lucky enough to file a claim, many were unable to log in to update their claim, which is a mandatory procedure every two weeks. The system is purposely designed to be a nightmare. With unemployment sky-rocketing, the unmistakable flaws are in the spotlight, hurting the working class and their families.

Along with the rest of Floridians, I too have experienced the horrendous process to apply for unemployment.

As a server in the restaurant industry, I relied on tips following up on the temporary closure of my restaurant. Before I could file a claim, the lack of guests had already hurt my and my co-worker's pockets. It was already too late to try and save any penny we could. Before we knew about our unemployment and if our restaurant would remain open, every hour, every minute, my co-workers and I checked our emails for any updates throughout the week for our destined outcome. One co-worker worried how he would pay for his mortgage, another worried about how she would keep food on her table.

Eventually, the inevitable happened, and we no longer had to hold our breath — we were officially unemployed.

Immediately I tried to apply for unemployment, then was denied the chance to file a claim. I made "too much" the week prior. I was prompted to wait another week, but by then it was too late. The website crashed any time I attempted to file my claim, leaving me to fear how I'd survive without a paycheck. It has now been three weeks since I have worked and yet, my claim for unemployment has been submitted a day ago. That is three weeks without a consistent flow of money. Three weeks worrying about how I will cover my rent. I can only hope that this will be America's wake up call to fix our broken systems. I can only hope that this is a wakeup call for Florida's state legislature and outdated policies.

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