TAMPA, Fla. - For two months, unemployed Floridians desperately tried to reach the Department of Economic Opportunity for help with their claims only to have their calls and emails go unanswered. But, starting next week, those looking for work in the Bay Area will be able to get a little bit of help, a lot closer to home as CareerSource Tampa Bay reopens on May 19, with limited services.
Back in March, COVID-19 put hundreds of thousands of Floridians out of work and closed down nearly everything, even places like CareerSource Tampa Bay, which had to move its services online.
Those out of work turned to the DEO for reemployment assistance. But, website crashes and error messages left thousands without a cent for weeks and an overwhelmed call center left them without answers.
Now, two months later, the state reports it paid nearly 694,000 claimants more than $1.77 billion since March 15. Of those claimants, 28,000 received Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, amounting to $13.7 million
"There's a whole bunch of money going out with direct deposits," Gov. Ron DeSantis recently said.
But, so many still need help and work. "The industry you've seen hit the hardest by this is the hospitality, tourism, retail industries those front-line customer service facing positions," said CareerSource Tampa Bay CEO John Flanagan.
CareerSource Tampa Bay announced it will reopen Tuesday, May 19 specifically for those without computer access or with limited computer skills. Their resource room will offer basic re-employment assistance, job search registration and/or assistance, computer, printer and fax access, with a one-hour time limit.
CareerSource noted, the resource room is not to be confused with the DEO re-employment office and staff has limited ability to assist with filing claims.
Still, for many who've struggled to even reach a single person on the state level, this is a chance to get some direction and simply, someone to talk to, in person.
While some industries will take a year or two to recover, Flanagan said that others are actively looking for new hires. CareerSource can point people in the right direction.
"Amazon, Walmart, Publix, CVS are all hiring," Flanagan said. "You've got construction and trades, certain parts of manufacturing, parts of the logistics and supply chains are hiring, especially customer service positions there."
Social distancing guidelines will remain in place and employees will be given personal protective equipment such as face masks.
Customers will be encouraged to wear face masks while on-site and will be required to sanitize their hands upon entry in the CSTB center. They will also be screened and anyone displaying symptoms of COVID-19, will not be permitted into the building.
“We have been working diligently and taken much thought and consideration into this next step of reopening our facilities”, said Flanagan. “We do want to make sure that we are available to assist our customers and that we’re doing everything we can to help during this crisis in a safe and smart manner.”
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion began a controlled reopening of its centers on Monday, May 11, by appointment only, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. No matter where you live in Florida, CareerSource services are available online or by phone.