TAMPA, Fla. - With many businesses temporarily closing their doors or shutting down altogether amid the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of Floridians are jobless. Many are now left wondering when and where their next paycheck might come from.
"You don't know where you're next amount of money is going to be, if you're going to get kicked out of your house, if your lights will get turned off or whatever," said Dave Walegorski, a local who is currently out of work.
Over the past few weeks, the Department of Economic Opportunity's unemployment website has seen more claims than it can handle. It's caused the system to glitch and crash, much to the dismay of the thousands attempting to access the site.
"Every office throughout the state has been receiving calls and complaints about the unemployment website and it crashing," said State Representative Jackie Toledo.
Last week alone, Florida had over 152,000 new unemployment benefit applications, bringing the grand total to 227,000 claims. However, with Disney planning to furlough 77,000 more employees on April 18, the numbers are only expected to grow.
"Come April 19, we're going to get an even bigger wave of unemployment claims, and we have to be ready for that," said Toledo.
Toledo now wants answers as to what exactly the $77 million set aside to upgrade the system was used for.
"I was outraged, as everyone probably is, as our governor probably is, to find out that that much money was spent to upgrade our system and now it's failing so many people," said Toledo.
Toledo is now calling for an audit. However, in the meantime, she told FOX 13 that many officials are working hard to fix the problem.
She is also offering good news to those still trying to file a claim. "People just want to talk to a human and get that certainty, so that's what my office has been doing is getting them in touch with the right people so they're not on hold for hours and hours."
Toledo said anyone in need of assistance can contact her office directly at (813) 281-5549 or by email at Jackie.Toledo@myfloridahouse.gov.
If you feel sick:
The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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